Posts Tagged ‘Read’

Gas leases have fiscal implications

Property owners hear about some of the financial complications involved with gas drilling agreements.

Although planning for what to do with gas-lease profits is a problem most people wouldn’t mind having, landowners likely aren’t eager to add paperwork to the already document-laden gas-leasing process.

Experts, however, say protecting the wealth is the same as accumulating it in the first place.

“I’ve seen some horror stories, and if it means going to an attorney and paying a few dollars, it’s worth it,” said Ronald Honeywell, a trust officer with Luzerne Bank who spoke at a seminar on the financial implications of gas leases on Monday evening at Lake-Lehman Junior-Senior High School.

Past seminars on leasing have packed the school’s auditorium, but Monday’s seminar on taxes and investing attracted perhaps 50 people. Presenters admitted that financial topics aren’t often looked forward to but are important nonetheless.

Of particular interest were leasing’s tax implications, such as drilling’s effect on county Clean and Green tax abatement programs. Michelle O’Brien, an attorney with Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald in Wilkes-Barre, said drilling would roll back seven years of abatements.

“It’s only fair that the oil company pays that price because they’re the ones kicking you out of Clean and Green,” she said.

However, she pointed out that the company’s payment would likely be a reimbursement, meaning the landowner should be prepared to pay the penalty.

“It sounds like a simple concept, but the money could be a lot of money,” she said, perhaps up to $100,000.

O’Brien also pointed out leases allow landowners to retain control over the location of pipelines and other infrastructure because the property’s marketability could drop depending on where such things are placed.

Even with legal exemption clauses, landowners should retain liability insurance, she said, to cover situations not directly caused by the drilling processes, such as all-terrain vehicles crashes or youths getting hurt on the equipment.

Robert Lawrence, a certified public accountant, explained that the royalties and sign-on bonuses are passive income, similar to rental income, which means they can push landowners into higher tax brackets and impact Social Security or Medicare payments. He suggested that people receiving royalties discuss paying installments on the estimated taxes.

Passing the wealth along creates its own pitfalls, noted Lee Piatt, also with Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald. Financial planning and distribution of the proceeds through family corporations or other outlets can avoid some of that, he said.

While it can cause headaches, the increased tax burden can also make some investments more enticing, said Arthur Daube, an investment adviser with Park Avenue Securities. Though their return is low, municipal bonds are tax-free by law, he said, so they can act as havens for profits.

O’Brien also pointed out leases allow landowners to retain control over the location of pipelines and other infrastructure.

Copyright: Times Leader

Rendell to allow gas drilling in state forests

The Associated Press
HARRISBURG — Despite opposition from environmentalists, the Rendell administration will give exploration companies thirsty to capitalize on sky-high natural gas prices new territory to drill in Pennsylvania’s state forests.

Read more Natural Gas Leases – Marcellus Shale articles

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said it is ending a five-year-old moratorium on allowing new shallow wells, and that it will auction the rights to drill on an additional 75,000 acres of state forest land for the first time since 2002.

If successful in the bidding that will take place later this year, the exploration companies will be able to take a shot at two deep gas reservoirs, the Marcellus Shale formation, about 6,000 to 8,000 feet underground, and the Trenton-Black River, which is more than 10,000 feet deep.

Both are thought to contain large quantities of natural gas, and have drawn the interest of exploration companies from Texas to Canada that have asked for access to all of Pennsylvania’s 2.1 million acres of state forests.

Much of the land to be leased is in north-central Pennsylvania, and department officials argue that the deeper wells, spaced farther apart, inflict less forest damage than shallow wells, which are typically drilled closer together.

New shallow wells may only be drilled if gas is found during the development of deeper gas fields, officials said.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity,” said Stephen W. Rhoads, the president of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association, “We just wish it were larger; 75,000 acres is not a whole lot of land.”

Jeff Schmidt, who directs the Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club, said the department gave in to pressure from oil and gas company lobbyists, as well as legislators sympathetic to the industry.

“These are publicly owned lands and we don’t believe the average citizen supports turning over these lands to the oil and gas industry,” Schmidt said.

“We just wish it were larger; 75,000 acres is not a whole lot of land.”

Stephen W. Rhoads
Pa. Oil and Gas Association

Copyright: Times Leader