There are many involved parties when dealing with mineral rights. Besides the property owners themselves, there are also concerned citizen groups, attorneys, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, environmental groups, and landmen. Each of these players approaches the issue of mineral rights from a different perspective.
Concerned Citizens Groups
Concerned citizens groups are a great resource for people whose mineral rights may have been affected by fracking. Some groups, such as “Denton Drilling Awareness Group,” from Denton, Texas, have particularly large online presences. These groups are important for citizens, as they can both provide information and support for them. If local citizens have decided to sue a shale company for any transgression or lease violation, these groups can unite citizens who might otherwise feel isolated in the daunting case of challenging such a corporation.
The Denton Drilling Awareness Group’s website, frackfreedenton.com, has a plethora of information, including scientific studies, links to government sites, and information about the location of local well sites. They are a nonprofit, aimed at “educating the public about the dangers of gas well drilling and its related processes to the public health, the environment, and property values in the city of Denton” (frackfreedenton.com). They can be contacted through the email firstname.lastname@example.org, or can be reached on Facebook, at Frack Free Denton, or on Twitter, @frackfreedenton.
A very important person that should be involved in any legal negotiations is an attorney. An attorney will be able to help prospective property purchasers conduct a title search, to discover whether they are also purchasing the mineral rights. Additionally, if property owners do own the mineral rights and decide to lease them at any time, an attorney will be able to assist in negotiating that lease, making sure that the property owners are comfortable with the rights they are giving up and the compensation they will receive.
To forego the hiring of an attorney at any point could result in unintended damages suffered by the property owner. The search for an attorney is a personal one that is dependent on many factors. A simple Google search may turns up dozens of options for a single area. One example is Attorney Tate Kunkle of New York City law firm, Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik & Associates, who has worked with Pennsylvania families in the past in cases about fracking and ground water contamination (Rubinkam). Their office is in the Empire State Building, and they can be reached at 1-212-267-3700.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, is another influential player locally. In potential cases of pollution, the DEP can prove to be an invaluable resource. The DEP has a toll-free number, as well as several regional offices that can assist in registering any environmental complaints. If property owners see something that does not seem right, environmental complaints on record can help in cases of future litigation.
The toll-free number is 1-888-723-3721. The regional offices are separated into six regions: the Northcentral Region; the Northeast Region; the Northwest Region; the Southcentral Region; the Southeast Region; and the Southwest Region. A complete list of the counties that comprise each region can be found at this link: http://www.dep.pa.gov/About/ReportanIncident/Pages/EnvironmentalComplain.... VmkQY-ODGko.
Environmental Advocacy Groups
Environmental advocacy groups can be hugely important as well. Similar to concerned citizen groups, they can help to unite people who are experiencing similar things. However, often these environmental advocacy groups have a larger pool of resources than concerned citizen groups, and thus can have a larger influence.
Earthworks, for instance, is a non-profit “dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while promoting sustainable solutions” (EARTHWORKS). They have a Facebook, EARTHWORKS, a Twitter, @Earthworks, a website, earthworksaction.org, and an office in Washington, D.C. where they can be reached at 1-202-887-1872.
For those property owners who may be interested in leasing their mineral rights to a shale company, they will need to get in touch with a landman. A landman is an industry representative employed to negotiate leases. Many landmen are enthusiastic about their work, and thus, they have likely approached a vast majority of properties on well-known shale plays, such as the Marcellus Shale.
The American Association of Professional Landmen (AAPL) is a “professional association of the landman industry,” which aims to promote protection of the public trust, as well as “promote sound stewardship of energy and mineral resources” (Frequently Asked Questions). The AAPL is based in Texas can be reached at 817-847- 7700.