WINTERSVILLE - The thought of property owners in Jefferson and Harrison counties getting $3,700 per acre in lease payments with 17.5 percent in production royalties for natural gas rights used to just be a dream.
Mineral rights lawyer Joseph Corabi said this is the position in which landowners in the two counties find themselves. He said four companies are bidding to gain access to more than 20,000 acres controlled by the collective he represents.
Corabi said these amounts are the minimum figures his clients expect to receive from the companies looking to drill in these areas, which are perhaps best described as being mostly in the Buckeye Local, Indian Creek Local, Edison Local and Harrison Hills City school districts.
"The acreage is really scattered throughout the counties," he said, "but a lot of it is in those areas."
So from Richmond and Irondale in the north, to Smithfield and Adena in the south, to Cadiz in the west and Wintersville in the east, the two-county area seems destined to see even more gas drilling activity that it is witnessing now.
Corabi said the the group signing its deal is coming closer to reality, so he and fellow lawyer Larry Piergallini have scheduled an informational meeting for July 25 in Wintersville.
"It's a public meeting - anyone is welcome to come to find out more about what we are doing," he said.
Records from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources show Chesapeake Energy, CNX Gas Corp., Ohio Buckeye Energy and Marquette Exploration are in the process of drilling for gas in Jefferson and Harrison counties.
Although Corabi did not want to disclose the companies he is negotiating with, he confirmed one of them is ExxonMobil, the nation's largest producer of natural gas, working through it's subsidiary, XTO Energy.
In a county that has lost so many jobs with the shuttering of the once-roaring Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. plants in Steubenville and Mingo Junction, Corabi knows how much potential economic growth the Marcellus shale drilling industry could bring to Jefferson County.
"This gas drilling can bring a huge economic boost to Jefferson County and the whole Ohio Valley," he said. "I am very hopeful for it."