In Amish country, trading fracking rights for a pittance
Some energy companies are offering Amish farmers in eastern Ohio a pittance to drill on their land, according to an article in the New Republic. The problem is that once the farmers realise that they have signed away their land for a mere fraction of its real worth, Burgess writes, they are unable to sue in court because their religion does not permit lawsuits.
I don’t think it would come of a surprise to anyone if I were to state that fracking companies have been known to use underhand tactics to get access to shale formations, but an article written in New Republic, shows a new low for fracking companies.
Eastern Ohio, home to billions of dollars worth of oil and gas shale reserves, also boasts the largest Amish population in the world, and energy companies have been approaching Amish farmers to buy drilling rights to the land for a pittance. The problem is that once the farmers realise that they have signed away their land for a mere fraction of its real worth, they are unable to sue in court because their religion does not permit lawsuits. (Related article: Next on the US Shale Scene? Try Tuscaloosa)
New Republic mentioned the case of an Amish farmer called Loyd Miller, who was approached by an agent from Kenoil, who offered him $10 per acre for the drilling rights to his 158 acre farm, and assured him that these were the best rates around. Miller said that he spoke to his wife, and they agreed“hey, that’s $1,500 we didn’t have.”
Not long after they found out that other non-Amish landowners in the area were receiving as much as $1,000 per acre. After consulting with a lawyer he was told that the Kenoil agent had in fact committed fraud by promising that $10 an acre was the best price available, and that Miller had a strong case to sue. The problem is that due to his beliefs, that is something he could never do.
New Republic explains that: “Their prohibition on the courts derives from the portion of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus instructs his followers to turn the other cheek, and if they are sued for their coats, to give up their cloaks, too. The Amish interpret this to mean that the court is no place to right wrongs.” (Related article: Can GE Make Fracking Safer?)
One local law firm said that it had consulted with various Amish families in the area who had all been duped by energy companies in a similar fashion.
Some might think the Amish only have themselves to blame for signing such clearly undervalued contracts without checking the true value of the land first, but in many cases the energy companies are actually using leases that are decades old, and technically out-of-date. The problem is that to prove the leases have expired, the Amish must take the case to court.
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