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West Virginia Landowner Wants Case Remanded to Circuit Court

A West Virginia man suing two energy companies in the Marcellus Shale wants his case returned to circuit court.

Richard Cain, a 61-year-old farmer and crane operator from Mannington, WV, filed suit against XTO Energy, an Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary, and Waco Oil & Gas Inc. in Marion County Circuit Court in June. Cain said the companies don't have the right to use his property to drill horizontal wells that would access natural gas from his neighbors' reserves.

"They're destroying my property to benefit somebody else," Cain told NGI's Shale Daily. "I understand that if they were extracting and developing the minerals from under my property there's no case there. But this is totally to draw the minerals from neighboring land. It's my feeling that my neighbors didn't want the wells on their property, so they decided to destroy mine."

XTO filed a notice of removal on July 22, which moved the case to U.S. District Court, Northern District of West Virginia. Judge Irene Keeley will hear Cain's motion to remand the case back to Marion County on Sept. 30. She will also hear a motion to dismiss the case by Glenville, WV-based Waco.

"From what I understand and what I've been told, that's where the case should be," Cain said. "It should be there because Waco is doing business in West Virginia. I've never been in court before so I really don't know. But this doesn't just involve me it involves every landowner in the state. If they can do it to me, they can do it to every other landowner. They can put the wells wherever they want."

Richard Gottlieb and Marc Monteleone -- attorneys representing XTO and Waco, respectively -- did not return calls seeking comment.

Cain owns about 105 surface acres, but Waco -- then Trio Petroleum Corp. -- purchased the mineral rights to an underlying 138-acre oil and gas reservation at a tax sale in 1999. The company then signed itself as leasee.

Cain said XTO has already drilled three wells on one pad on his property. Court documents indicate XTO plans to acquire permits to drill another three wells on the first pad, then construct two additional pads with six wells each for a total of 18 horizontal Marcellus Shale gas wells.

Asked if he has spoken to any of his neighbors since his court case -- Cain v. XTO Energy Inc. et al. (No. 1:11-CV-111) -- started, Cain said, "No, they haven't come around. There's been no conversation between us."

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