Posts Tagged ‘gas-lease workshop’

Gas drilling could aid clean water

Industry may pay to upgrade plants that handle waste water from process.

By Rory
Staff Writer

The state is contending with a multibillion-dollar water-treatment problem, and the growing gas-drilling industry might be part of the solution.

A roughly $7.2 billion deficit exists for repairing or upgrading waste-water treatment facilities in the state, according to a task force created by Gov. Ed Rendell to solve water-infrastructure issues. Gas companies might help defray that cost as more wells are drilled because the companies will need treatment facilities for waste water.

The process to drill gas and oil wells, called hydraulic fracturing or simply “fracing,” involves shooting sand and water down a well to fracture the rock containing the oil or gas.

The contaminated water is separated out and can be stored and reused, but must eventually be treated. The state Department of Environmental Protection categorizes it as industrial waste, agency spokesman Mark Carmon said.

In western Pennsylvania, where many shallow wells exist, privately operated treatment facilities handle such waste, but none has so far in the northeast area, said Stephen Rhoads, president of the Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Association.

Exploring the Marcellus Shale, which runs from upstate New York into Virginia, including the northern edge of Luzerne County, generally requires far more water than shallow wells because the wells can be 8,000 feet deep

Companies working in this region have reused the water in multiple wells and then shipped it to the facilities out west, Rhoads said, but “obviously, moving it across the state with the fuel prices the way they are, is not economically” viable. The water can also be injected deep into the ground, but no one has sought such a permit in this region, Carmon said.

That leaves sending the water to public facilities, but since many of them are already near or at capacity, the industry is considering paying to upgrade plants. About 30 of the largest regional treatment facilities have been notified by DEP that they might be approached with the idea and that they’d first need to modify their liquid discharge permits and receive approval from the agency, Carmon said.

The idea hasn’t escaped the gas companies.

“We’ve talked about that in various areas throughout the state,” said Rodney Waller, of Range Resources Corp. “We’re investigating that, but … there’s nothing on the horizon.”

Upcoming events

• 10:30 a.m. today the state Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Susquehanna and Delaware river basin commissions, and county conservation districts are meeting in Harrisburg with industry members to discuss environmental regulations.

• 7 p.m. June 23 the Penn State Cooperative Extension is holding a gas-lease workshop for landowners at the Lake-Lehman High School.

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.

Copyright: Times Leader

Gas lease workshop to deal with money issues

Topics like reporting leasing income, transferring leases to beneficiaries to be covered.

The temptation to just sign could seem irresistible. With a few strokes of the pen, some people in the region are being offered the chance to completely change their lives with natural gas leases.

But first, they’re warned, make peace with the fact that the next person will get more. Check the maps, they’re told, check the deed, hire a lawyer, test the water. How much environmental damage is acceptable? How about hassles to daily life?

For those not involved, think Beverly Hillbillies, minus that improbable shot, and then exchange the endearing high jinks for hours of tedious title searching, legal work and stressful decisions with lifelong implications.

So who could blame anyone for simply signing and hiding behind the wads of cash? Well, their children, for one. Because with the great benefits of gas royalties come the great responsibilities of taxation and profit allocation, and, if they’re ignored, the great headaches of the judicial system and familial infighting.

“People are just seeing the (money) as a way to pay taxes … and not thinking about having to report it to the IRS and the tax implications that could have on them … or thinking about general financial planning or investing,” wrote Donna Skog Grey in an e-mail.

Grey, who works for the Penn State Cooperative Extension in Luzerne County, says the extension has been fielding questions on gas leases, environmental issues and lessee rights. What to do with the money, however, hasn’t come up often, she noted, which is why the extension is sponsoring workshops on what to do after the lease is signed but before the money rolls in.

One is planned for Lake-Lehman Junior/Senior High School on Aug. 25.

“There may be some strategies available to reduce the income tax,” said Dale Tice, an attorney with Greevy & Associates, a Williamsport law firm consulting on gas leases. “That’s something they would want to work out with their accountant or financial advisor prior to receiving the payment.”

The workshop will cover various topics, including how to report leasing income – the cash bonuses are just like regular income – transferring leases to beneficiaries and investment options.

“Certainly the cash-bonus payment is an issue,” Tice said. “It could push somebody up into a higher tax bracket. … You’re looking at a large potential tax hit, and without using the strategies that are available, you’ve got issues (in the event of) divorce, creditors.”

To add to confusion, there are health-care implications with elderly lessees who are currently eligible for Medicare or Medicaid, he said.

He noted some families are creating limited-liability companies to distribute the proceeds, and that family limited partnerships can make dividing up ownership of the lease similar to issuing stock.

“Really, the issue here is providing governance, keeping the parents in control of the resource while they’re alive, but at the same time providing for an orderly and easy shift of equity to the next generation,” Tice said. “I don’t think that you have to have it necessarily worked out before you receive your cash-bonus payment, but certainly there’s no disadvantage to thinking about these issues earlier rather than later.”

If you go

A natural gas-leasing workshop entitled “Managing Natural Gas Lease and Royalty Income” is scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25 at the Lake-Lehman Junior/Senior High School. The cost is $10 per person. To make reservations, call the Penn State Cooperative Extension at 1-888-825-1701.

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.

Copyright: Times Leader

Gas lease offers could jump if early wells productive

Experts tell landowners to understand everything they are signing related to leases.

LEHMAN TWP. – Natural-gas drillers seem to be taking “a wait-and-see attitude” right now, according to Ken Balliet, a Penn State Extension director well versed in gas-lease issues.

If exploratory wells being drilled this summer are productive and some state regulatory issues are ironed out, gas-lease offers could jump, he said.

But as anticipation builds over natural-gas drilling in the region, here’s one thing landowners can expect.

“As soon as you sign a lease, in a few days or weeks, the price (others sign leases for) is going to go up,” Balliet said. “You’ve gotta understand this is still a highly speculative play.”

That said, landowners have many other issues to consider beyond the bottom line, according to other experts who spoke at a gas-lease workshop on Monday evening at Lake-Lehman High School. There are environmental, liability, property rights and payment issues that should be considered.

For Luzerne County landowners who are undergoing property reassessment, another concern is retaining the land’s “clean and green” tax abatement status. Dale Tice noted that the financial risk could be transferred to the drilling company. Tice, an oil and gas attorney, said an addendum could be added to leases to require drillers to pay any rollback taxes.

Another important lease consideration for farmers is making sure the drillers isolate the topsoil during excavation, pointed out Joe Umholtz, an oil and gas program manager with the state Department of Environmental Protection. DEP doesn’t have a regulation requiring that, he said.

Tice also mentioned inserting compensation clauses for crop loss and land damage.

Beyond soil and groundwater pollution or water usage, landowners should consider the sound pollution from compressor stations and other machinery.

While all the issues probably won’t deter wildlife indefinitely, drillers can arrive at any time of year, so owners should prepare accordingly for hunting seasons, the experts said.

Regarding payments, owners should be aware that companies currently deduct transportation costs for getting the gas to market, Tice said, but legislation is pending to ban that. Also, while companies might offer owners the opportunity to use as much gas as they want, the pressures involved make it practically unreasonable, so Tice suggested that owners negotiate for payments in lieu of the gas.

It’s also important, he said, to restrict lease rights to only what might come up from the well because a broader lease might allow extraction of other minerals.

Finally, he advised against allowing options to re-lease land, but instead offer the first right to refuse a new lease offer.

“If they drill a well, that means you’ve got one chance to get this lease correct. You need to be sure you understand everything you’re signing,” he said.

Copyright: Times Leader