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The Suburbanite
  • Landowners sue for mineral rights in Jackson

  • Two property owners in Jackson Township have gone to court hoping to reclaim their property rights for land over the North Canton Gas Storage Field operated by Dominion East Ohio.

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  • Two property owners in Jackson Township have launched a class-action lawsuit aimed at reclaiming the mineral rights to their land.
    They hope to lease those mineral rights to companies trying to pull oil and natural gas out of the Utica shale, which lies about 7,500 feet below the surface.
    But right now the mineral rights appear to be controlled by Dominion East Ohio, which operates the North Canton Gas Storage Field that lies under parts of Jackson, Lake, Lawrence and Plain townships, and Green and New Franklin in Summit County.
    If the land owners can claim the mineral rights, they would have a chance to lease the rights to the highest bidder.
    BK Builders Ltd., on Higbee Avenue NW, and Terry R. Renner, of Lutz Avenue NW, recently filed the lawsuit in Stark County Common Pleas Court against Dominion, Pennsylvania based CNX Gas Co., and several unknown parties and entities with interest in the gas storage field. Lawyers hope the case will become a class-action suit for everyone who owns land above Dominion’s gas storage field.
    The lawsuit is similar to complaints filed earlier this year in Columbiana County where Columbia Gas Transmission has the Brinker Storage Field. While property owners above the storage field want to lease their mineral rights, NiSource — Columbia Gas’ parent company — has transferred mineral rights to another of its subsidiaries.
    LONG HISTORY
    The North Canton Gas Storage Field dates to drilling in the Clinton sandstone early in the 20th century. East Ohio Gas and associated companies bought rights and drilled wells that eventually ran dry. During the 1940s, East Ohio Gas began using the dry wells to store natural gas for use during winter months.
    East Ohio Gas, which was part of Consolidated Natural Gas, stopped drilling wells and  focused on selling natural gas to customers around the state. Virginia-based Dominion bought Consolidated Natural Gas in 2000, giving Dominion ownership of the storage field.
    The end of drilling on land within the gas storage field is at center of the dispute over mineral rights.
    THE DISPUTE
    A company leasing mineral rights has an obligation to develop and exploit those rights, said Robert J. Tscholl, lawyer for the property owners. “If you don’t do that, it’s our opinion that the lease terminates,” he said.
    Additionally, Tscholl said he believes that leases for storage fields don’t lock down the mineral rights and block drilling.
    Dominion no longer is a drilling company. During the past 18 months, it has filed agreements with CNX Gas concerning mineral rights at the Stark County Recorder’s office.
    CNX is among several companies securing leasing rights to drill eastern Ohio’s Utica shale. The company has permits for six wells in Ohio, so far.
    Page 2 of 2 - A spokesman for Dominion declined to comment on the lawsuit.
    The Utica shale is a rock formation that is projected to produce oil along with dry and liquid natural gas. The shale lies below the Clinton sandstone that is used for storing natural gas.
    Companies rely on two processes — horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — to extract oil and gas from shale formations. Tscholl notes that horizontal drilling wasn’t developed when leases were drawn for the storage field. The lawsuit is before Judge Charles E. Brown Jr.
    If the case moves forward as a class-action suit, thousands of property owners could become involved, Tscholl said.