YOUNGSTOWN - Local attorney Alan Wenger believes frequent knocks on the door from representatives of oil and gas drilling companies aren't over yet.
''It's going to start all over again, now that there is a lot of property leased up,'' Wenger said of solicitation by oil and gas drilling companies. The difference now, however, is that those companies may be hoping to permanently secure mineral rights through a purchase rather than a lease.
''People may be vulnerable or interested in selling their rights now rather than getting royalties down the road," Wenger said Monday evening.
Wenger, of Harrington Hoppe & Mitchell, was one of several speakers who addressed a crowd of about 1,000 landowners at an invitation-only meeting inside Youngstown's Covelli Centre. The meeting was called for members of the Associated Landowners of the Valley, or ALOV, to talk about topics like selling, rather than leasing, mineral rights, natural gas vehicles, proposed severance taxes and lease defects.
Nelson Cooper, who owns about 250 acres in Southington and attended Monday's meeting, said he has first-hand knowledge of knocks on his door.
He said he has been contacted frequently by gas companies, pipeline companies, lawyers and investors, some of whom he trusted, many of whom he did not.
Bob Rea, President of Buckeye Mineral Development and Ohio Director of the National Association of Royalty Owners, addresses the crowd at Monday’s meeting in Youngstown. Photo by R. Michael Semple
''It's good for the area. It's a good change,'' Cooper said. ''It's just that everybody that approaches you tries to lowball you.''
It was the value of the minerals that Wenger said is difficult to pinpoint. His advice to anyone considering a sale of mineral rights focused on that value.
''We don't have much of a guide to go by,'' he said, noting that some offers have ranged up to $12,000 to $14,000 per acre.
''There might be a point where it makes sense," Wenger said, noting if a property owner is aging and wants to reap the benefits while he or she still is able.
''Be very careful," he said, noting you always should consult an attorney before signing on the dotted line.
While signing bonus checks for many area landowners who leased their mineral rights have already arrived, been cashed and much of it spent, some property owners still are waiting, hoping to work out "defects" with their leases.
Problems with the deed, mortgage language or former drilling leases are being encountered by some property owners hoping to reap the financial benefits of natural gas deep below the surface, Thomas G. Carey Jr., also an attorney with Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell, said.
Carey said the most common problem he has encountered with members of the landowners group his firm represents is dealing with problems with old mineral rights leases.
Cooper, of Southington, also said he has had problems with a so-called lease "defect." He said about half of his land has been leased successfully for horizontal drilling through ALOV, but a deal on the other part of his acreage is tied up while he works out problems with the language in a prior lease.
The best advice both attorneys could give was to be careful, move slowly and consult an attorney before signing anything.