I would never say that operators are owned and staffed by evil people who intentionally seek to inflict economic hardship on others. I know better, I have worked with/for these people for 30 years. However, they are running a business for profit, not a charity. Like all business owners, some are more ethical and reasonable than others. When you as a mineral owner elect to participate in a well, you are making the same decision, to operate in a business environment for a profit, your own. This decision makes you responsible for the actions you and your partners take, subject to the contracts you are a party to. In the initial well, the penalty for not paying your share of costs up front is 50%. While some may view this as placing all the dry hole risk on the operator (and it does), it is also a very expensive finance charge for you to avoid that risk should the well be productive. This rate makes credit cards look like a windfall.
By electing to be carried in a forced pooling you have elected to become a party to an operating agreement that allows any party to propose an operation, a well, a workover etc subsequent to the initial well. The remaining parties have only two elections, to participate and pay their share of the operation or elect not to participate and become subject to the non-consent penalties (300% or more is common). This isn’t a tactic the operator is using against you personally; it applies to all the working interest owners. The operator will want you to pay your share of costs and will not view your inability to do so as a reason to change their plans. They will expect you to pay your share of costs, comply with the agreement you signed or face liens on your share of production, legal action etc. The same business attitude will likely prevail if they elect not to market your share of oil and gas, for whatever reason might make more money for them or simply to put pressure on you to sell your interest to them.
Most operating agreements require the operator to purchase insurance for the participating parties in an operation, but the insurance this applies to is more often than not for things like workers compensation claims, auto insurance, and other insurance that is required to be carried by employers by law. It usually does not insure against catastrophic events such as blowouts, environmental damages, loss of life in an accident etc. The JOA usually specifically requires each co-owner to provide their own insurance for these purposes. This coverage will certainly be expensive and very likely will not be even offered by an insurance company to a non-operating individual with no prior experience in the oil and gas business. Again, the decision not to provide umbrella liability coverage to all working interest owners is not done by the operator to punish you, it is done because each co-owner has different situations regarding insurance and can face very different costs. The operator may face very minimal costs to insure while yours may not be affordable. The operator is under no obligation to help you insure your decision to participate in the well.
I don’t want to scare people out of participating in wells if they truly think that is the best alternative for them, and in some cases this decision has worked wonderfully for people. However, I would not do so with my own money and I would not recommend it to my friends or family. I just want to pass on some of the risks that you may not be aware of involved with owning a working interest. Believe me, the issues above are just scratching the surface of potential problems. My advice, if you are going to participate as a working interest owner, is to ABOVE ALL, limit your investment to what you can afford comfortably to lose. Examine the downside as much or more as you do the upside of this investment. Protect yourself against liability with your ownership status (LLC or other, never as an individual personally) and insurance, pay for good legal, contract and negotiating advice before you sign anything and remember that you just bought an interest in a multimillion dollar business for which you are now responsible, whether the results are good or bad.