By: Andy Sheehan

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It’s been called the Pennsylvania Gold Rush as many landowners are getting rich from Marcellus Shale drilling.

However, not everyone who has signed a lease with a gas exploration company is happy about it.

They claim they didn’t get enough for their rights and wish they’d read the small print.

The gas companies contract with people called “land agents” who want to sign up as many landowners as quickly as possible for as little as possible.

That’s why if someone comes knocking, you should look before you lease.

When land agents recently went door to door in Lincoln Place, Fred Smith and many of his neighbors signed over their mineral rights for $25.

It’s an open question whether Marcellus Shale drilling will ever happen in Lincoln Place, or anywhere in the city for that matter. However, Smith wishes he had asked more questions before putting pen to paper.

“Well I just goofed that’s all. I should have never signed,” Smith said.

Land agents have been out in force throughout the region working on behalf of gas exploration companies, but also themselves. Lawyer Rich Milesky said many use pressure tactics.

“They create a sense of urgency and they’ll call if you don’t sign, they’ll come back to your property and say you’re going to miss out,” Milesky said.

Since Smith’s yard is on the small side, the land agent did warn him that he wouldn’t be getting rich. However, that’s not what they told Tony Moschella about his 25-acre spread outside of Burgettstown.

“We’re going to put a well on your property anywhere you want and you’re going to be a millionaire,” Moschella said.

That was five years ago and still no well has been drilled. Moschella has long since spent a $10,000 signing bonus, which is a fraction of what his neighbors are getting.

“Unfortunately, me being the idiot [and] not reading the lease. I signed for $300 an acre. And now three, four years later, people are signing for $3,500 an acre, and I’m stuck,” Moschella said.

Now, Moschella is kicking himself for not reading the paragraph which states: “The release is self-renewing and can’t be renegotiated.”

Even the gas exploration industry now advises people to look before they lease.

“That’s why we encourage people to talk to neighbors and maybe get a lawyer who will charge you a fee to review it,” Matt Pitzarella with Range Resources said.

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