CHARLESTON, W.Va. - In a case that may give West Virginia landowners a stronger bargaining chip in dealings with natural gas companies, a Marion County man is suing two of the state's largest gas producers to pay up or get off his land.
Richard Cain argues that gas producers don't have a right to put large Marcellus shale wells on his land in order to get at gas on his neighbors' property. If Cain prevails, it could become more difficult and expensive for gas companies to place multi-acre Marcellus well pads.
David McMahon, a lawyer who co-founded the West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization, filed the lawsuit last week in Marion County Circuit Court. Cain is suing XTO Energy, a division of Exxon Mobil, and Glenville-based Waco Oil and Gas.
The lawsuit argues XTO can't take over up to 36 acres of Cain's 105-acre property just to put in Marcellus shale wells. The plans make Cain, a 61-year-old farmer and crane operator, "heart sick," McMahon said in a telephone interview last week.
Cain bought the land in 1989 to eventually give to his children. But he only owns the top of the land - more than a century ago, the mineral rights had been sold off.