Co-tenancy to be one of top energy issues of session

charleston — Legislators anticipate co-tenancy to be one of the top energy issues to come up in this year’s legislative session.

Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood, said his vision is to enact such legislation, which he believes will simplify the process when there are multiple owners in a single tract of land.

“Right now, it is very difficult to find the missing owners who may have had interest in minerals passed down over generations,” Anderson said.

Charlie Burd, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association, explained co-tenancy deals with a single tract of land whereas lease integration combines several tracts of land with many different owners. He said there are times when 15 to 20, sometimes hundreds of people can have ownership of a particular tract of land.

“If you have just one that would refuse to develop that tract of land, you wouldn’t be able to go after that tract of land,” Burd said.

Last year, a bill dealing with co-tenancy died in the Legislature. Under this bill, 75 percent of landowners had to agree to development. Sen. Glenn Jeffries, D-Putnam, said he anticipated this year’s bill to follow that same threshold.

Jeffries said he wants to make sure minority owners are addressed in the legislation as well.

“We want to make sure they are going to receive what the majority does with rights as well and get their due process to take their concerns to the circuit judge to get that fair market value,” he said.

In an interview later Friday, House Speaker Tim Armstead said there are a few concerns about co-tenancy in the House. One is having a sufficient percentage of owners to agree to develop.

“A second concern raised by different groups of landowners and members of the House is there has to be some type of appeals process if a group of owners doesn’t feel they were treated fairly,” Armstead said. “This is something we will have to work through. But I do think truthfully, it goes back to fairness because we don’t want to impose any requirement against the will in the sense that there have been some proposals to allow industry to drill on people’s property when no one wanted it.

“None are interested in that. However, if two-thirds of owners who want to use it in a certain way and to allow one landowner or even up to a quarter of landowners to prevent it, you’re depriving that majority ownership of using that land. There is a fairness issue that members recognize we need to address.”

This article was authored by Andrea Lannom for the Beckley Register Herald. Click here to read it on the publication's website.