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James Burgess

James Burgess

James Burgess studied Business Management at the University of Nottingham. He has worked in property development, chartered surveying, marketing, law, and accounts. He has also…

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Fracking Companies Take Advantage of Amish Religious Beliefs

I don’t think it would come of a surprise to anyone if I were to state that fracking companies have been known to use underhand tactics to get access to shale formations, but an article written in New Republic, shows a new low for fracking companies.

Eastern Ohio, home to billions of dollars worth of oil and gas shale reserves, also boasts the largest Amish population in the world, and energy companies have been approaching Amish farmers to buy drilling rights to the land for a pittance. The problem is that once the farmers realise that they have signed away their land for a mere fraction of its real worth, they are unable to sue in court because their religion does not permit lawsuits.

Related article: Next on the US Shale Scene? Try Tuscaloosa

New Republic mentioned the case of an Amish farmer called Loyd Miller, who was approached by an agent from Kenoil, who offered him $10 per acre for the drilling rights to his 158 acre farm, and assured him that these were the best rates around. Miller said that he spoke to his wife, and they agreed “hey, that’s $1,500 we didn’t have.”

Not long after they found out that other non-Amish landowners in the area were receiving as much as $1,000 per acre. After consulting with a lawyer he was told that the Kenoil agent had in fact committed fraud by promising that $10 an acre was the best price available, and that Miller had a strong case to sue. The problem is that due to his beliefs, that is something he could never do.

New Republic explains that: “Their prohibition on the courts derives from the portion of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus instructs his followers to turn the other cheek, and if they are sued for their coats, to give up their cloaks, too. The Amish interpret this to mean that the court is no place to right wrongs.”

Related article: Can GE Make Fracking Safer?

One local law firm said that it had consulted with various Amish families in the area who had all been duped by energy companies in a similar fashion.

Some might think the Amish only have themselves to blame for signing such clearly undervalued contracts without checking the true value of the land first, but in many cases the energy companies are actually using leases that are decades old, and technically out-of-date. The problem is that to prove the leases have expired, the Ahmish must take the case to court.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com

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  • Bruderthaler on June 12 2013 said:
    While this is technically the case, there would be nothing preventing the local state and county officials from acting on behalf of the victims to enforce laws against committing fraud. One would then also have to deal with the practice of not taking an oath re testimonies in court but this should be old hat to public attorneys working in close proximity to Mennonite, Hutterite or Amish communities.

    In fact, that there is no one reviewing these leases or development issues on behalf of the public seems to indicate that someone is asleep at the wheel on the county level... There should be numerous points at which the county has to register and supervise the infrastructure, curb and driveway permits, and environmental impact of these facilities.

    It would also seem well worth the time and effort of local officials to address these matters on their own in that shysters are like cockroaches... where one is, many more are sure to be found and even more to follow.

    In fact, it would be interesting to note at this point why nothing has been done... and to widen the scope of the investigation to campaign contributions and the number of poker games / golf matches, etc. arranged between local oil businesses and the public officials who should have otherwise been on top of this story.

    In order to have initiated this fraud, one would have have to have a fair familiarity with Amish and Mennonite culture.

    Thanks for making this public.


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