Landowners Sued for Blocking Seismic Tests
LISBON, Ohio – A land company that conducts seismic testing for Chesapeake Energy Corp. has sued five property owners in Columbiana County, saying the landowners have refused access to their properties – alleging one owner threatened to shoot company employees should they try to step on his land.
TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Co., based in Houston, filed one complaint March 16 and four more March 20.
The company wants the Columbiana County Common Pleas Court to issue a preliminary injunction that would allow TGS-NOPEC access to the properties so they could proceed with seismic testing – a method energy companies use to determine the probability of oil and gas at a prospective drill site, their suit says.
TGS argues that Chesapeake owns leasehold agreements on all five properties, and therefore has the right to conduct the seismic procedures without a permit.
The parties named in the complaints are James and Janet Zimmerman, 2254 Depot Road, Salem; Phillip and Brenda Glasser, 3380 S. 12th St., Homeworth; Larry Fryfogle, 2634 S. 12th St., Beloit; Golden H. Acres, 33372 Hoopes Road, Salem; and Gary and Eleanor Carter, 2409 Westville Lake Road, Beloit.
“In an attempt to maintain cordial relations with landowners, TGS has contacted defendants by letter and in person on several occasions to obtain a signed permit for the purpose of conducting the seismic procedure,” the complaint reads.
The lawsuits claim that the landowners have refused to allow company employees on their premises. The complaint against Fryfogle noted that the defendant “has repeatedly indicated he would not permit access to his property for the seismic procedure; and has threatened to shoot TGS's personnel.”
Frederick Coombs III, an attorney for Golden H. Acres and the Zimmermans, said his clients are reluctant to allow such seismic testing because this company's type of testing is not permitted under the lease. And, he said the company has not provided any documentation as to their relationship with Chesapeake.
“Our clients know almost nothing about NOPEC’s connection with Chesapeake,” Coombs said. “What we do understand them wanting to do is not something that we agreed to let even Chesapeake do, let alone anybody else.”
These aren’t the only court battles in Columbiana County related to drilling rights and leasehold agreements.
In February, landowners filed a complaint against Patriot Energy LLC, Lisbon, saying they believe the company misrepresented or concealed information in 2008 so it could secure drilling and gas rights on properties for a little as $10 an acre.
Two years later, Patriot sold the leases to Chesapeake Energy for more than $1,000 an acre.
Today, some of those leases are going for $6,000 an acre. The landowners also claim that the leases were improperly notarized and should be ruled null and void.
Andrew Blocksam, president of Patriot, told The Business Journal in February that all of the leases were negotiated in good faith.
Another complaint, filed by Chesapeake in U.S. District Court, seeks to stop 95 landowners in Carroll and Columbiana counties from terminating their leases with the company. Those landowners have argued that their leases allow them to secure a third-party offer should it benefit them more.
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