Southern Tier landowners who were among the first to sign natural gas drilling leases, and have been anxiously awaiting an opportunity to negotiate a better deal, may be in for a disappointment.
Many landowners who signed 10-year deals in 1999 and expected to be free agents this year are finding out that provisions in their contracts could allow the gas companies to extend the terms of those agreements for another 10 years.
The problem arises over the interpretation of a specific clause in those early contracts, said Nicole Gwardyak of Empire Energy Consultants, who has been working with county landowner coalitions on natural gas issues.
In 1999, a company known as Central Appalachian Petroleum signed numerous property owners to 10-year deals using generic leases bought from an office store, Gwardyak said.
Most of those leases were later bought out by Fortuna Energy in Big Flats and other large natural gas exploration companies.
Many of the leases had a provision for the landowner to negotiate a 10-year extension, but Gwardyak said on the documents she has seen, that space was left blank.
However, gas companies are now claiming those contracts bind the landowners for another 10 years under the same terms, even if the blank was not filled in, she said.
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