"FORKSVILLE, Pa. -- A few short years after agreeing to lease their land to a natural gas company for $2 an acre, Dave and Karen Beinlich could do little but watch, and wait, as an overnight drilling boom turned fellow Pennsylvania landowners into millionaires.
While other landowners were striking increasingly lucrative deals with energy companies, the northern Pennsylvania couple's suddenly valuable 117-acre parcel netted them $234 per year. And there wasn't a thing they could do about it.
The Beinlichs are among thousands of residents living atop the gas-rich Marcellus Shale who signed lowball leases in the years leading up to the boom in Pennsylvania. In those early days a half-decade ago, virtually no layperson had even heard of the rock formation, let alone knew that drillers had found a way to access the huge reservoir of natural gas locked inside it.
An untold number of industry-friendly agreements are now approaching their expiration dates. But landowners who expected to sign new leases — and reap windfalls of thousands of dollars an acre — are facing the reality that energy companies with billion-dollar investments in the Marcellus are not about to let their prime acreage slip away."