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Private property rights are fundamental to freedom.  Founding father Samuel Adams described it as an “essential” right and wrote, “that no man can justly take the property of another without his consent.”

Property rights in the U.S. are under attack by the energy industry, which treats its ability to take surface and/or subsurface rights as an entitlement backed by government. 

This latest assault on private property rights is driven by the shale gas/oil “gold rush.”  The attack takes many forms:  eminent domain, compulsory integration, unitization, forced pooling and more.

My wife and I are former gas leaseholders in Pennsylvania who fought a two-year legal battle against eminent domain after we and other property owners were sued by Spectra Energy (NYSE: SE), a pipeline and underground nat gas storage company.

Spectra Energy wanted surface and/or subsurface property rights to our then “depleted” gas wells; and it was backed in its “taking” of our rights by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

We landowners lost our legal battle but learned much in the process that we share with citizens, property owners, legislators, investors and more.

The Spectra Energy facility today is a 12-billion cubic feet underground natural gas storage reservoir on 43 acres with a 5,000 horsepower compressor station, 13 injection/withdrawal wells and related pipeline infrastructure in Bedford County, Pennsylvania – all about two hours from Washington, DC.

This facility, known as Steckman Ridge, has ongoing operational problems since it began phased-in operations in 2009.  Today, a ring of health, water and operational complaints surround the facility.  Spectra Energy likes to call its neighbors “stakeholders” but doesn’t treat us like stakeholders.

Out of that conflict over property rights, I founded Spectra Energy Watch in 2008.

The website expanded into Shale Property Rights in 2013.  My commentary is also cross-posted on Accountability Central; and I am involved with CSRHUB, a Corporate Social Responsibility website.  In addition, I’ve published op-ed pieces in newspapers and been invited to speak on the subject of property rights in the face of the shale gas “gold rush.”

It is time to challenge the status quo.  Add your voice to ours and others if you believe in:

  • Private property rights.
  • Full transparency and accountability into energy industry operations – especially as shale gas/oil operations impact the environment, property owners and communities.
  • Government regulators acting responsibly to protect citizens and communities – rather than serve the energy industry.

Browse the website and feel free to share information about the issues, the energy industry, regulators and property owners involved in similar battles elsewhere. You can reach us via the “Contact Us” link above.

Mike Benard