Drilling-related lawsuits on the rise in Columbiana County, Ohio

June 17, 2012
By TOM GIAMBRONI , shaleplayohiovalley.com

LISBON - The shale gas boom underway in Columbiana County has been a boon to the legal profession judging by the number of lawsuits.

More than a dozen shale-related lawsuits have been filed over the past year alone in county Common Pleas Court, including three lawsuits filed just this week. The lawsuits are:

- TGS-Nopec Geophysical Co. and Chesapeake Exploration filed a lawsuit against Marilyn Slates of North Canton seeking access to 332 acres in Hanover Township so it can perform seismic testing.

The property's mineral rights have been leased to Chesapeake, which hired TGS-Nopec to perform the seismic testing needed to determine the best places to drill. According to the lawsuit, Slates - as the trustee for the land - has refused to sign off the paperwork that would allow the company access to the property for testing.

The lawsuit asks the court to declare that Chesapeake has the right to have its agent conduct seismic testing on the property, issue an injunction granting them access, and also award the plaintiffs $25,000-plus in damages as compensation for the revenue being lost due to the delay.

This is the second such lawsuit filed in the county, and the property owners won the first one on a technicality, but the action was refiled with Chesapeake added as a plaintiff.

- Roger, Carolyn, James and Bruce Starkey of Mechanicstown in Carroll County filed a lawsuit against Patriot Energy Partners of Lisbon, PEP Leasing of Lisbon, Andrew and Thomas Blocksom of Lisbon, and Robert Dickey of Lisbon. The lawsuit alleges they are involved in some fashion with Patriot Energy and/or helping secure mineral rights leases from the Starkeys on behalf of Patriot Energy.

Also named as defendants are Buckeye Oil Producing Co. of Wooster, Bass Energy of Fairlawn, Wimsatt Family of Paris, Sonata Investment Co. of Columbus, and Chesapeake Exploration because all may have an interest in the leased property.

The gist of the lawsuit and several others filed against Patriot Energy allege the company engaged in questionable business practices to obtain the leases for only a fraction of what they were really worth and then sold the leases to other companies for significantly more money.

A restraining order is sought to prevent the Blocksoms and Dickey from notarizing or assigning any more leases in which they have an interest and that the lease agreement with Patriot Energy be voided. The Starkeys also want more than $1 million in damages.

-Another lawsuit was filed by a group of property owners in the Lisbon and Leetonia areas against Columbia Gas and its parent company over the Brinker Storage Field. Columbia Gas had pre-existing leases for these properties to store gas in underground tanks. The plaintiff claims these leases have since expired due to lack of activity on the property, which would allow them to enter into new leases for significantly more money.

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit - the fourth of its kind - are Daniel and Sandra Gruszecki, Miller Road, Leetonia; Richard and Diane Dowd, state Route 517, Lisbon; John, David and Jennifer Krawchyk, state Route 558, Leetonia; Dale Riehl, Leetonia Road, Leetonia; Tracy and James Bruderly Jr., Lodge Road, Leetonia; Michael and Dawn Moore, Leetonia Road, Leetonia; and Daniel and Lynn Hill, Woodville Road, Leetonia.



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