Many named in lease lawsuit

LISBON – A Leetonia couple has filed a gas and oil lease-related lawsuit against not only the companies involved in the lease but also other property owners involved in a consortium, including the village of Leetonia.

Filed in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court by Weirton, W.Va., attorney M. Eric Frankovitch, the lawsuit demands a ruling allowing Harold and Susan Bowen out of their lease, noting among other things that the lease has expired.

According to court documents filed this week, the Bowens claim they signed an oil and gas lease with Black and Gold Exploration of Wooster effective Aug. 22, 2002 involving 75 acres, some of which were later sold to other property owners. The Bowens still own nearly 61 acres of their original property.

Following the signing of the lease, Black and Gold either sold or assigned the lease to other companies. The lawsuit lists Scion Energy, Ball Resources, Range Resources-Appalachia, Chesapeake Appalachia, Statoil USA Onshore Properties, Total E and P USA, CHK Utica, Chesapeake Exploration and Jamestown Resources as companies which they alleged had some interest in the lease during the decade following the lease signing.

On Aug. 21, 2012, Chesapeake Exploration and CHK Utica reportedly filed a declaration and notice of pooled unit, merging the Bowens’ property with other surrounding properties. The consortium became known as the Hartz Unit.

Other property owners in the Hartz Unit are named as defendants in the Bowens’ lawsuit – James and Mary Hartz of Virginia Beach, Va.; Earl and Linda Biggs, John and Patricia Ivan, and Mary Lou Adams, all of Crestview Road, Leetonia; Roger and Doris Mincks, Randall and Nancy Weikart, Robert and Sally Kirkland, John E. Hamilton Jr., Kimberly Clark and Tamie Ambrose, all of Leetonia Road, Leetonia; Jacob and Sophia Witmer, Lesher Road, Columbiana; Michele H. Nemenz, Hillcrest Drive, Lake Milton; John Currie, Columbia Street, Leetonia; Scott A. Garlough, Main Street, Leetonia; Susan and Paul Malove, Fredericksburg, Va.; and the village of Leetonia.

The Bowens claim their primary lease expired on Aug. 22, 2012 and as of that time there was no well capable of producing oil and gas on the leased premises or on the consolidated Hartz Unit.

Chesapeake Exploration reportedly began drilling on the property of James and Mary Hartz on Jan. 7, 2013, drilling to the Point Pleasant Formation to a total depth of 12,525 feet and then shutting the well without producing any oil or gas.

The lawsuit also claims the Hartz Unit should be declared invalid because the Bowens were not mailed a declaration of the consolidation prior to the expiration of the lease.

The Bowens are asking for their title to be quieted, declaring the gas and oil companies no longer have a lease on their land. Additionally, they no longer want to be considered part of the Hartz Unit. The Bowens claim the gas and oil companies knew their lease was already invalid and therefore made false statements when they filed the declaration of consolidation followed by two amendments to it which were filed on Dec. 14, 2012 and May 24, 2013.

In addition to voiding their lease and the consortium, the Bowens are seeking punitive damages for their lost wealth due to an inability to seek other leases.