Cumberland Times-News

April 1, 2013

Landmen legislation advances

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Companion bills by local legislators that would regulate landmen have unanimously passed both the state Senate and House of Delegates. One of the bills should end up on the desk of Gov. Martin O’Malley by the end of the General Assembly session.

The legislation follows up on Marcellus Shale Advisory Committee recommendations.

The bills would prohibit a person from “operating as an oil or gas land professional in the state unless the person registers with and obtains a registration certificate from the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation,” according to the language of the bill. The land professional would be required to provide proof of certification before negotiating with a landowner.

There’s been concern over a Wild West-style grab for mineral rights, including gas rights, by some landmen in Western Maryland while companies are hoping to obtain rights to drill for natural gas inā€ˆMarcellus shale, should the state government eventually allow the practice.

Land professionals, also known as landmen, look for land with potential for drilling or mining and then attempt to negotiate for mineral rights on behalf of gas, petroleum or mineral companies. “Landmen’s responsibilities include meeting with landowners and negotiating leases on behalf of companies seeking to mine or drill on a plot of land. The American Association of Professional Landmen, a large professional organization of approximately 12,000 landmen that is based in Texas, offers two levels of certification for its members, which require course work, field experience and an examination. However, a certification is not required to perform the duties of a landman,” according to a fiscal and policy note prepared by the Department of Legislative Services.

The bill carries penalties for a violation.

“A violation of any provision in the bill is a misdemeanor and subject to a minimum penalty of a $500 fine and a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine. Enhanced penalties exist for a second or subsequent violation of the bill.  Penalty revenue accrues to the general fund,” the policy note states.

The Senate Bill, SB 766, sponsored by Sen. George Edwards, has already received a favorable recommendation from a House committee, after passing the Senate 47-0 on March 13. That means Edwards’ bill will advance for a full House vote. The House Bill, HB 828, sponsored by Delegate Wendell Beitzel, passed the House 135-0 on March 17.

Marcellus shale formations throughout the eastern U.S. harbor large untapped natural gas resources.

The shale formations in Maryland are located only in Garrett and Allegany counties.

In order to get the gas trapped in the shale to the surface, chemicals, water and sand are pumped underground to break apart rock formations and free the gas.

The process is called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.