Steve Westfall is the West Virginia Delegate for House District 12, which covers part of Jackson County. In his last campaign in 2016, he received thousands in campaign contributions from the energy and natural resources sector, including over a thousand from natural gas and oil companies and PACs. This legislative session, he has sponsored both HB 4268, the new Forced Pooling, and HB 4168, the new Right to Trespass. Steve’s bills would hand over your property rights to out-of-state gas companies and their contractors without your permission.
Steve Westfall can be reached at his home phone of (304) 532-8875, his Capitol phone of (304) 340-3140, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
West Virginians have told Westfall NO before, and we’re going to tell him NO again on Forced Pooling and Right to Trespass!
Take a moment to tell Steve that West Virginians don’t support his push to help out-of-state gas companies trespass on your land whether you like it or not. Tell him that entering private land without permission will never be anything but trespass!
Let him know that Co-tenancy is just Forced Pooling by another name, and Forced Pooling is theft.
Delegate Westfall sponsored HB 4268– 2018’s version of Forced Pooling. The Swamp Dwellers in Charleston are trying to rebrand it as the “Cotenancy Modernization and Majority Protection Act.” Westfall isn’t the only one attacking property rights; Delegate Bill Anderson is the lead sponsor, and Delegates Kelly, Zatezalo, Fast, Higginbotham, Ward, Hollen, Atkinson, Foster and Lane are cosponsors. All of these legislators are fighting hard to deliver exactly what out-of-state gas and oil companies want—the right to force West Virginians to give up their property rights.
Gas lobbyists have already admitted that Cotenancy is just the newest spin on Forced Pooling. Even industry publications have referred to it as “Forced Pooling Lite”. The Swamp Dwellers seem to be making an appeal for “Majority” rights, but this is just a distraction tactic. The fact is that the majority of consenting co-tenants in a would-be unit for development are already protected. Currently, they are within their rights to take a deal, negotiate for the best price, and let big out-of-state gas and oil companies develop on their property.
This bill would allow companies to force non-consenting property owners in a tract to give up their rights against their will. If the consenting co-tenants owning 75% of the rights in a tract make a bad deal, the owners of the other 25% would be forced to accept the same deal… Even if they wanted to hold out for a better price. Even if they never wanted their property developed in the first place.
The owners of that 75% of the property are completely protected in their right to strike bargains with gas and oil developers. What they shouldn’t be allowed to do is help gas and oil companies steal their neighbor’s property. This bill claims to “protect” these greedy folks, but what it actually does is force the minority owners to submit to the tyranny of the majority
HB 4268 would allow out-of-state gas and oil companies to force property owners to give up their rights without their consent.
That’s not protection, that’s Majority-Rules Theft. That’s Forced Pooling, Steve.
Westfall sponsored HB 4168—the new Right to Trespass bill. This bill is meant to do one thing: allow any natural gas firm, corporation, or company to enter private property without the property owner’s permission.
Both this version and last year’s version of the Right-to-Trespass bill attempt to forcibly re-define the concept of private corporations entering private property without express permission. The language of the bills claim that these invasions will be considered “neither a trespass nor a taking. Such entries shall be considered a minimal intrusion.”
We think the landowners of West Virginia who will see out-of-state gas companies and their imported workers entering our land without our consent or even against our wishes will believe it is trespassing, plain and simple. We consider these unauthorized entries to be more than simply minimal intrusions, and instead a severe and dangerous violation of our most basic property rights.
HB 2688: Right to Trespass (2017)
In 2017, Westfall sponsored HB 2688, which would have made it legal for gas company employees to enter private property without the property owner’s permission. This Right to Trespass bill not only would have allowed corporations to enter private property without prior consent from the landowner, it also left the landowner potentially liable for injury claims from the trespassing gas company representative. This bill did not make it out of committee.
HB 2688: Petroleum Forced Pooling (2015)
This forced pooling bill would have allowed oil companies to steal from non-consenting property owners as long as they had consent from landowners that owned at least 80 percent of the net acreage of a horizontal well unit. Westfall voted twice to allow petroleum drilling without consent of all property owners—a yes vote when HB 2688 passed the House initially, and a yes vote during the failed concurrence vote.