Lawyer helping landowners get out of old leases

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A Howland attorney is fighting for landowners who leased out their mineral rights during the oil and gas boom of the 1970s and 1980s and are still stuck in those old leases.

He feels many of the oil and gas companies abandoned the leases, and landowners should be able to take advantage of the current Utica shale boom.

The owner of Schwartz Farms in Cortland was one of those landowners that took advantage of the former oil and gas boom when wells were being drilled into the Clinton Sandstone Formation. Most of those wells are no longer in production, but the landowners are still stuck in the lease from decades ago.

Attorney Michael Grove recently filed a lawsuit in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to help get those landowners out of the old leases, some of which he believes have been abandoned.

“Some of these older companies that have these old leases want to make the claim that their lease covers that Utica and that Marcellus shale formation and that their lease is still good,” Grove said.

One example is if there was a gap of several years in which the oil and gas company did not work the well, but came back to work the well just to keep the lease alive. The landowner then may have a claim that the lease is expired.

“He could freshly lease his property at the new going rate, which is much higher,” Grove said.

He said 30 years ago, oil and gas companies paid landowners $1 per acre and 1/8th royalty payments from any oil produced by the well. Today, companies are offering $3,000 to $4,000 per acre.

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