Sun. 4:03pm: Billions in gas drilling royalties transform lives

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Private landowners are reaping billions of dollars in royalties each year from the boom in natural gas drilling, transforming some lives even as the windfall provides only a modest boost to the broader economy.

In Pennsylvania royalty payments could top $1.2 billion for 2012, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

Jerry Simmons, the director of the Oklahoma-based National Association of Royalty Owners, says membership is growing fast in Pennsylvania.

The group says nationwide gas royalties totaled about $22 billion in 2010. Texas paid out the most, about $6.7 billion, followed by Wyoming at $2 billion and Alaska at $1.9 billion.

Ohio came in 12th that year with $68 million paid in royalties. That number is likely to increase, however, since natural gas giants BP America and others have purchased tens of thousands of acres up and down the western portion of the Buckeye state and are beginning to drill.

Robert Inman, a professor of economics at the University of Pennsylvania, says the royalty windfalls are good for individuals, but not a big factor in the overall economy.