As a school board director of the Mars Area School District, I know some people have questioned the reasons why the board turned down the land lease for gas well drilling with a 9–0 vote.
Decades ago, several school properties were donated to the school district. Just prior to the vote, our school solicitor informed the board that several of the donated school property agreements contained first right of refusal language and revertible clauses. Some lands were donated with the express use of education only, and if anything else occurred, the land could revert back to the family that donated the land.
Our solicitor advised the board that if the land lease for gas drilling was approved, it could very well be challenged in court. He further advised that because of how the property agreements and titles were written so many years ago, it would be very difficult to defend our decision of entering into a land lease agreement of this nature.
Based on this legal advice, the board thought we were in no position to approve the motion to enter into a lease for the purpose of gas well drilling.
In addition to our receiving this new information from our solicitor, Rex Energy had set a deadline for the board to make a decision and we had to vote to meet their deadline.
We hire a solicitor to ensure that the decisions we make will meet the legal requirements set by the federal, state and local laws. When our solicitor advises us, as elected officials, that a decision could lead to future legal problems, we must respect that advice.
Before being advised of the legal issues, just minutes before the vote, I did support the land lease for gas well drilling and thought it was an excellent way to receive additional income for the benefit of the students and taxpayers alike. I personally have entered into land leases for drilling rights on my own family farm dating back to 2007.
I am a supporter of Marcellus Shale drilling. I believe that prior to the discovery of how the property agreements and real estate titles were worded, the vote would have been close, and I would have been one voting in favor.