News & Politics

Fracking By Force: Company Wants to Force Landowners to Let Them Drill For Gas

Hilcorp wants to drill for gas even if landowners don’t want to let them.

Food & Water Watch sponsors a rally against fracking in New York.
Photo Credit: a katz /

An oil company is trying to use a state law in Pennsylvania to force residents to allow drilling on their land.  Hilcorp wants to drill for gas even if landowners don’t want to let them.

So in response, the company is trying to use a 1961 state law that allows them to drill under property without explicit permission.  The law is based on a concept known as “forced pooling,” meaning that the company can bundle lease-owners with non-lease owners, and then force landowners without leases to allow drilling.

The landowners could win thousands of dollars if they yield to the company.  But at least four property owners are holding out.  One homeowner named Suzanne Matteo called the potential for forced drilling “un-American.” Matteo told the Associated Press she is worried about pollution and drilling’s impact on property values.

Hilcorp also stands to profit from the drilling, also known as fracking.  They’ve been pushing the use of the “forced pooling” law since July to convince landowner Bob Svetlak to allow Hilcorp to drill.  He has refused.

“I didn’t buy this land to sell it,” Svetlak said earlier in the year. “I bought it for peace and property, like a lot of people in this country. I live here for the tranquility.”

Hilcorp’s attempts will be adjudicated by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection.  As Think Progress’ Katie Valentine notes, the company’s claims have been criticized by Governor Tom Corbett, who called “forced pooling” a case of “private eminent domain.”


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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