Companies suspend leases in Delaware River Basin

Newfield Exploration Co. and Hess Corp. have suspended most of their leases in northeastern Pennsylvania in response to the Delaware River Basin Commission's decision last month to halt all drilling in the basin until it develops new regulations.

Newfield said it was suspending its leases to develop Marcellus Shale wells until the DRBC completes its review.

The decision has spurred concern among landowners, who fear they may not receive more than $200 million in scheduled payments. Newfield and Hess said they would deliver payments due to landowners in January totaling about $50 million, but payments scheduled through 2015 were predicated on the companies drilling exploratory wells.

"All of that is now in jeopardy," said Marian Schweighofer, executive director of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance, a coalition of 1,800 landowners that leased 140,000 acres to Newfield and Hess (Andrew Maykuth, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 30).

The alliance is contemplating a lawsuit against the DRBC because of the potential loss of the payments and has already hired the international law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP to begin preparing a lawsuit.

However, Newfield spokesman Keith Schmidt said the company intends to make the promised payments.

"Our primary goal is to develop a long-term business ... in Wayne County," Schmidt said. "The payments will be made on the scheduled time frames" (Steve McConnell, Scranton Times-Tribune, July 1). -- EG

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