By CASEY JUNKINS
BETHESDA, Ohio - Belmont County farmer Larry Cain didn't seem all that concerned about Rice Energy's plans to place its Razin' Kane and Crazy Train well pads on his property, or the company's efforts to build pipelines to transport oil and natural gas to market.
While planting corn and baling hay directly next to the well pad earlier this month, Cain remained unconcerned about the operations.
"It took up about 22 acres," Cain said of the two well pads. "They have not diminished our farming ability. And we can grow right up to pad."
At her farm just down the road, Lova Ebbert, co-operator of Ebbert Farm Market, tends to her tomato crops without concern about the natural gas wells or pipelines running nearby.
"The pipeline development is not as scary as some believe," she said. "We sometimes forget they're even there."
Unlike Cain, Ebbert does not have any well pads on her property.
"You can specify in your lease that you don't want a well on your property. Others may be just fine with having a well on their property," she said.
Cain said when he and neighboring mineral owners signed leases with Rice a few years ago, they did so because they wanted to maintain some influence of how the driller would operate.
"We didn't sell the minerals. We leased them because we wanted this to be a partnership," he said.
Kimberly Price, manager of external communications for Rice, said company officials work to address the concerns of those who live and farm near their operations.
"We spent $2.4 million for road repair in Belmont County last year. We spent $200,000 between July and September last year for dust suppression," she said.
Cain, Ebbert and Price also said allowing a company to install a pipeline does not mean that a farmer is forfeiting the ability to use the property. Cain said Rice compensated him for a lost growing season when the firm installed its pipeline in the right-of-way space on his land.
"We can be done with that in a year. Once we are done, the farmer can go back to using the space for growing crops or raising cattle," Price said.
Betsy Anderson is the organization director for Ohio Farm Bureau division serving Belmont, Monroe, Guernsey, Noble and Washington counties.
"The best defense is for the landowner against anything they don't want on their property is to have a very solid agreement for the pipeline or the well pad. Contract language is very key. We recommend that folks work with attorneys," she said.
Anderson said items to consider in the agreement, in addition to financial terms, are:
whether well sites, compressor stations, impoundments or roads will be constructed on one's surface property;
if the company will have to compensate the landowner if it shuts-in a well to halt production; and
if or how the company will need to reclaim one's property.
"Most of the companies have been very reputable. They try to work with landowner on locating the well pads," Anderson said. "Not every landowner will get everything they want. But, these companies are generally very good about community support."