Pooling and Unitization - in West Virginia, Wetzel County

I have seen other topics and blogs regarding forced pooling in other states, but not West Virginia. My Lessee wants to be able to unitize up to 1,280 acres, plus 10% acreage tolerance (the parcel in question is only 125 acres). The prospective language just seems a little too flexible for the Lessee: “A pool or unit may be created, changed, or cancelled by Lessee at any time (included after drilling) by:” (and then it lists a wide variety of options). How is something like this in the best interest of a Lessor such as myself? It just essentially allows the Lessee to do whatever they want, whenever they want, or so it appears. What do West Virginia laws, rules and regulations provide for? I saw an earlier similar topic dated 2015 that apparently was never responded to and then ultimately closed. I’m also concerned because the Lessee in an adjoining larger parcel, where I also own mineral rights, is a rival drilling company.

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There is a statute referred to as the deep well statute that allows forced pooling below the Onondaga Limestone, which applies to Utica/Point Pleasant shales, but the Marcellus is considered a shallow formation. The language you reference is pretty standard in company boiler plate leases and many attorneys and owners do try to make adjustments to the language, usually to prevent changes to units that could affect royalties or create adjustments for royalties already paid.

I have been exploring a notion that a unit or pool should only be changed after its first iteration in order to prevent “waste” which under WV law means to prevent not paying royalties for acreage being drained or rendering acreage sterile. But no company in my experience has agreed to this provision yet.

Thank you for this information. Since I’m currently simultaneously reviewing two lease agreements on adjacent parcels from two different drilling companies, I decided to try striking out the language in the lease I thought was most unfair, and then substitute text from the other lease into the first lease’s Addendum. As you said, it all comes down to paying royalties and how much. I think you bring up another good point regarding company boiler plate for pooling and unitization, which may work great in Oklahoma and Texas, but not so much in West Virginia, where they may be pooling in the Marcellus, and if so, would not be subject to forced pooling in accordance with the West Virginia deep well statute.