ToolKit Encourages Athens County Landowners To ‘Look Before You Lease’

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An Athens County organization is providing free information to people who are thinking about leasing their property to an energy company for drilling.

Rural Action's "look before you lease" toolkit helps residents understand the hydraulic fracturing process and the legal terminology of leasing land.

The toolkit includes a sample lease and a DVD containing about 40 documents that walk you through the entire leasing process.

Susi Rankis, who works with Rural Action, said a landowner has a lot to lose if he or she leases their land without knowing what to include in the paperwork.

"The oil and gas company is not going to have the same interests as the land owners so it's really about spelling those interests that the landowner has out for the oil and gas company in their lease," said Rankis.

Rankis said writing a lease is difficult and the specific terms aren't the only things landowners have to think about..

"What happens before any drilling is completed on their land? What happens when the well pad is there? What if there's a problem? Who do they contact? How is this going to impact my neighbors and family?" she said.

Wayne Gilchirst is an Athens County landowner who says he's approaching the leasing process with caution.

"We're just assessing our options, looking at the different programs that are available out there and we have been not too quick to jump on the band wagon because we think its still in its early stages," he said.

An oil and gas company in Columbus has helped Rural Action create a sample landowner-friendly lease that can be used as a starting point to help understand terms and provisions that should be included to protect the landowner's interest.

On the left side of the sample lease, landowners can see what would actually be shown on a real lease. On the right side, the language is explained and simplified.

"We want landowners to be able to use their land no matter what. We know that landowners care about their land and that they want to keep their land for future generations and that they love the land here in Southeast Ohio," she said.

Rural Action has already distributed several hundred kits to people in six different states.