Republicans in the state House are reviving a bipartisan bill aimed at preventing natural gas companies from shortchanging people on royalty money.
HB 1391 was introduced last summer and has 37 co-sponsors from both parties. Rep. Garth Everett (R- Lycoming) is the prime sponsor and says he held back on pushing the measure during the state’s nearly six-month-long budget stalemate, but he continues to hear from people all over the state who are upset they’re not being paid fairly.
“I’m going to try to re-energize it,” he says of the bill. He’s working to organize a legislative hearing in Bradford County next month. The date is still to be determined.
Everett points to a 1979 state law called the Guaranteed Minimum Royalty Act. It requires drillers to give landowners at least a one-eighth (12.5 percent) royalty. Depending on the language of a lease contract, drillers may share the costs of processing and transporting gas through pipelines and compressor stations with landowners. But some people have complained drillers are charging exorbitant fees, leaving them with far less royalty money than the legally-required 12.5 percent.
In 2014 another royalties bill Everett sponsored was approved by a House committee, but never came up for a vote. The gas industry lobbied against the measure, arguing it was unconstitutional because it could rewrite existing contracts. Everett later blamed the House Republican leadership for squelching it.
“When we get it out of committee, I’ll try to bring it to attention of our senior leadership and explain it’s different than the last go-around” he says of the new measure. “I think there’s widespread acknowledgement the bill will pass if it goes to the floor.”
Rep. John Maher (R- Allegheny) chairs the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and is supportive of the effort.
“I fully expect the committee to take action on the bill this spring,” he says.