|West Virginians has a never ending history of taking away what is rightfully theirs with its abundant natural resources|
Perhaps the biggest push against royalty holders is "tort reform" which prevents citizens from suing large corporations
By Thorn Roberts
This is just by introduction to a basic problem, but there is no way royalty owners,
surface owners, etc. can successfully defend their interests in today's conditions
without facing up to the frontal attack on Constitutional rights presented by the sorts
of politicized operators we have in the Marcellus/Utica play today (EQT and Antero
being good examples, among others).
And the financial institutions interlinked with
them, which are different from the banks of the past in that they can and do
have aspects of management powers in other businesses while retaining passive
party status legal immunity.
In having a superior status at law, they have elements
of sovereign status which are incompatible with the 14th Amendment. Their claim
that they are entitled to "allocate" income without giving an accounting is an aspect
The drive for arbitration is a suspension of jury trial rights- it more or less
immunizes them from suit as lawyers are under enormous pressure not to offend
their big-time repeat clients.
The confidentiality agreements they try to impose on
everything violate free speech rights- I have a lease unitization modification agree
ment for a lease in Ritchie Co. which I'm not going to sign which contains a strict
pledge of silence, with court-ordered penalties prescribed to enforce this.
All this of course does not affect just royalty owner or surface owner interests.
It is an attack on the American Constitution and the claim that this country is
democratic- the latter has always been questionable but honored up to a point.
Not since the Civil War and the rise of the Confederacy has there been such a
blatant attack on equality under the law as the major banks are staging now,
which affects us directly because the major operating companies in the Marcellus/Utica play are to a large extent subject to their control (whatever the
Though these basic trends were set in motion in the Reagan Era
(if not to some extent before), they have continued under the administrations of
The conclusion- we MUST find ways of getting what is really going on out
into the open. There are enormous pressures to keep this a closet state secret and to keep it out of political discussion.
Protection against these attacks
on Constitutional rights such as no-tort binding arbitration is going to take
a serious collective effort.
It's absolutely time for people to wake up.
politicians are not going to solve this problem for us, nor is the legal profession
which has too much at stake in not rocking the boat.
Police officers need to
be careful what they get sucked into, too, in protecting what is to a considerable
extent white collar big-time criminality.
- Thorn Roberts is a long time advocate for royalty rights, a resident of Wirt County.