'Intimidation, Threats, and Lawyers': The Great American Gas Fracking 'Land Grab'

Ranjana Bhandari and her husband Kaushik De, who recently failed in their attempt to prevent Chesapeake Energy from drilling for gas near their home, stand near a Chesapeake Energy gas well in Arlington, Texas September 16, 2012. Picture taken September 16, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Mike Stone_

'Intimidation, Threats, and Lawyers': The Great American Gas Fracking 'Land Grab'

Introducing a couple from Texas who, despite their objection, had the natural gas sucked out from beneath their property by the Chesapeake Energy Corporation without paying a dime in compesation, an investigative report by Reuters recounts how the gas giant has embarked on an aggressive nationwide "landgrab" with a series of legal maneuvers and industrial fracking equipment in tow.

In a special report, The casualties of Chesapeake's "land grab" across America, a review of official state records by Reuters shows that since January 2005, the Texas agency in charge of granting waivers under a land regulation statute--known as Rule 37--"rejected just five of Chesapeake's 1,628 requests" to access land without the owners permission.

The exemptions granted by the state "effectively secured [Chesapeake's] ability to drain the gas" from private properties without royalties or other payments.

According to Reuters:

Chesapeake's use of the Texas law is among the latest examples of how the company executes what it calls a "land grab" - an aggressive leasing strategy intended to lock up prospective drilling sites and lock out competitors.

Chesapeake has become the principal player in the largest land boom in America since the 1850s California Gold Rush, amassing drilling rights on more land than almost any U.S. energy company. After years of leasing tracts from New York to Wyoming, the company now controls the right to drill for oil and gas on about 15 million acres - roughly the size of West Virginia.

Chesapeake defends the practive, but local residents interviewed for the investigation were not coy with their condemnation of Chesapeake.

"The principle of it is insane," said Calvin Tillman, a former mayor of Dish, Texas, a small town north of Fort Worth where drilling has been heavy. "Not only can they take your property, but they don't have to pay you for it."

And in Ohio, where fracking has also come under heavy fire, State Rep. Mark Okey, a Democrat who represents communities where drilling has been heavy, said of the gas company: "They believe in intimidation tactics. They threaten you. They will yell at you....It's all about getting you to sign [the lease agreements]."

"You don't sign? We'll go around you. You don't sign? You'll not get anything out of your mineral rights. You don't sign? Then you're going to pay the price because we're going to take those minerals from you."

Read the full Reuters special report here.

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