June 12, 2012

Abstract thoughts

I used to think that there were two kinds of people: those who were comfortable in courthouses and those who weren't. I fell into the latter category. This could be because I mostly go into mine to deal with things like taxes on cars and such and have to go through a metal detector to do that.

Lately, however, I've been spending a good bit of time in courthouses around the state talking to county commissions and economic development authorities about the need to create a Future Fund for West Virginia from natural resource severance taxes. I've found that some of them are really nice and welcoming. As in friendly places without metal detectors.

One kind of creepy thing that I've heard about and have seen in some courthouses, however, is a real sign of the times in the Marcellus Shale boom areas, to wit, swarms of abstractors scavenging tax and property records to find victims ...I mean landowners who may or may not own mineral rights to the places they live on. It can often the first step in ruining the lives and health of some inoffensive rural family.

It reminds me of the old stories about how unsuspecting farmers were swindled out of their land in the early days of the coal boom 100 or so years ago.

I think a lot of local people have the same reaction I do to the swarm. Here's one anecdote: while eating at a local restaurant in one north central county with a friend on the Future Fund trail, a waitress gave us a good looking over and tentatively said, "Y'all aren't abstractors are you?" I assured her that we weren't and that they gave me the creeps too. She said she was concerned about the quality of life in the area and was worried about how things would change if and when a major land grab got going there.

I can't say I disagree. I do hope that at least this time around we find away to limit the damage and get something out of it.

MY FINGERS ARE CROSSED. There have been some interesting developments in the federal investigation of Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch disaster that might signal prosecutions moving up the corporate ladder.

IT WASN'T JUST YOUR IMAGINATION. The Great Recession was really bad.

UP WITH THE CHICKENS?  You may be happier.



Frances said...

If you decide to sell off your Marcellus Shale Mineral Rights, you should always have an expert conduct property evaluation first.

Serge said...

Landowners who still have their mineral rights should first learn about this so that they would be able to make an informed decision.