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from The New York Times, December 1, 2011

Landmen, the door-to-door salesmen who pitch oil and gas leases to landowners for drilling companies, dismiss complaints from landowners, saying they don’t mislead anyone.

“There are bad leases out there, and, as with any industry, there have also been some unscrupulous opportunists,” said Mike Knapp, president of Knapp Acquisitions and Production.  His company brokers deals between landowners and drilling companies in Western Pennsylvania.  “But everyone I know who does this work is on the up and up, and most of the bad actors that there might have been before are no longer in business.”

Knapp said that Knapp leases ensure landowners will get replacement water.  Before signing a lease, Knapp landmen urge landowners to visit an existing drilling site to understand the extent of noise and truck traffic associated with hydrofracking.  He added that some complaints about leases are nothing more than sour grapes from landowners who are envious of the amount of money they believe their neighbors are earning in bonuses and royalties.

Many landowners have earned small fortunes from drilling leases.  Last year natural gas companies paid more than $1,600,000,000 in lease and bonus payments to Pennsylvania landowners, according to a report commissioned by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group.

Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest natural gas companies, has paid more than $183,800,000 in royalties in Texas this year, according to its web site. Much of the money went to residents in rural areas where jobs are scarce and farmers and ranchers struggle to stay afloat.

Mr. Ely (see previous blog at

once worked for a company owned by Cabot on drilling sites in his area, until he was fired shortly after publicly complaining about Cabot’s drilling practices.

Regarding the waste pits on Ely’s land in Pennsylvania, George Stark, a Cabot spokesman, said the company’s cleanup measures met or exceeded state requirements.

Defensive arguments not withstanding, many landowners and lawyers say that gas companies are intentionally vague in their contracts and use high-pressure sales tactics on landowners.

The Times database of gas and oil leases signed since 2007 can be sorted by state and county.  Ohio is one of the states covered.

Drilling Down: Archive of Oil and Gas Leases by the NYT

For general information about hydrofracking and its impact in Ohio, go to Network for Oil & Gas Accountability & Protection at

For text and photos of the experience in the Hickory, PA, community, go to


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