Cortland clerk fights abusive gas leasing practices

Cortland clerk fights abusive gas leasing practices by Emma Jacobs, October 17, 2011, Innovation Trail
Elizabeth Larkin’s a stickler for the letter of the law. That’s made her a bulwark against abusive land leasing practices. Larkin is Cortland’s county clerk, and like others across the state, is one of the few people who sees the contracts made between drilling companies and landowners. Leases are considered private contracts, and therefore aren’t overseen by any agency at the state level. As a result, Larkin says she sees companies try to record improper documents all the time, including adding five year extensions to leases that explicitly rule them out. … “That would never hold up in court because the original lease was very clear … to clarify this, the landowners will probably have to take them to court,” she says.

Larkin’s involved in a complicated dance with the energy companies that have leased two-thirds of Cortland County. As leases expire, drillers bring in documents that they know she will turn away, she says. Drillers then file affidavits arguing that she refused their documents improperly. She turns around and files another affidavit explaining why. She’s met with lawyers from Chesapeake Energy, but says she and the driller haven’t come to an agreement on the legality of a number of practices.

“[A gas company] can file an affidavit saying they own the moon – that doesn’t mean that it’s true,” she says. [Emphasis added]

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