Imagine winning the lottery without buying a ticket. It was much like that for Glenn Pore when the Fayette County retiree accepted an energy company's offer to pay him and 10 relatives thousands of dollars to lease mineral rights beneath farmland his ancestors plowed a century ago. Pore does not own the land although his ancestors did. When sold, the family retained mineral rights which later became valuable.
In Pennsylvania, property owners can sell surface property but retain control of minerals. That includes natural gas trapped in the mile-deep Marcellus shale formation that was out of reach until the technology behind hydraulic fracturing evolved enough to extract it.
Mineral rights stick to the branches of a family tree no matter how many times the surface property sells. The rush to make money from the lucrative gas reserve includes a cadre of genealogists, title experts and landmen the energy companies hire to hunt down living heirs of last century's business-savvy relatives.
You can read more in an article by Jeremy Boren in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at http://goo.gl/DZu8g.
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