By Ed Runyan
A Kinsman Township man has sued Northcoast Energy Inc. of Youngstown and other related companies over what he claims is the company’s failure to pay for use of his land for drilling and pipeline operations.
Richard A. Bickel of Jewell-Greenville Road filed the suit last month in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. The suit is assigned to Judge Ronald Rice.
The suit alleges Northcoast Energy, Enervest Energy of Cleveland, EV Properties of Houston, C. Gas Properties of Cleveland and EV Royalty Partners of Houston failed to pay Bickel $2,500 for use of his property for placement of storage tanks, separators and other equipment related to the gas and oil industry.
The payments were promised in an agreement Bickel signed in June 2007, the lawsuit says. The type of well involved at the time was the older-style vertical well.
The companies also promised to pay Bickel $1 per foot for pipe to be installed across his property, the suit says.
Bickel has not received any payments, despite repeated demands, said one of his attorneys, Marty D. Nosich of Cortland.
The phone number for Northcoast Energy on Wickliffe Circle is out of service, and no phone number for Enervest Energy of Cleveland could be found when The Vindicator attempted to obtain a comment regarding the lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks $5,000 in damages plus cost of the legal action.
The suit also seeks to have the drilling and pipeline agreements rescinded on the grounds that a Northcoast representative gave false representations to Bickel by saying Bickel should “get something” for those deposits because “we’ll take it anyway.”
“Those representations were material and false,” the lawsuit alleges, and it says Northcoast knew the statements were false and were made “with intent to deceive and defraud.”
Nosich said in an interview that companies’ making false claims to induce property owners to sign a lease is one of the more common complaints he hears from landowners in Trumbull, Portage and Ashtabula counties.
In the case of Bickel, he got $1 per foot for pipeline installation. Prices being paid for that range up to $30 per foot, he said.
The leasing of land in Trumbull County for horizontal drilling has slowed compared with a few years ago, but leasing of land for pipelines is fairly active, Nosich said.
His firm has not filed a lot of lawsuits regarding pipeline complaints, but it’s likely that complaints will arise in future years over pipelines because problems usually surface after the pipelines are put in the ground.
Landowners should watch for statements made by land men that don’t get into the written agreement, such as whether the landowner can build or plant crops over top of a pipeline, Nosich said.
“No matter what the land man says, it’s what’s in the lease that matters. If they make you a promise, make sure it’s in the lease,” Nosich said.