A barn, silo, fenced in yard, curvy road leading to it, grass on the sides and hill with trees in background

Malabar Farm

Most people generally feel that their piece of the American dream as landowners is located in the best part of the country. That, as landowners, their slice of heaven on earth is the best, and indeed that may be true for many. This is at the core of our countries declaration stating that "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are three examples of “unalienable rights" which the Declaration says have been given to all human beings. There are two types of rights, Natural and Legal. Natural rights are those that are not dependent on the laws of government, and so are universal, inalienable and they cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws. Legal rights are those bestowed onto a person by a given legal system, therefore they can be modified, repealed, and restrained by human laws.

In north central Ohio there resides an incredible piece of geography, demarcated and described as Richland, Ashland and Holmes Counties. Within and around these human legal boundaries are vast riches of history; the stories of the first landowners, Native Americans known as the Wyandotte and the Mingo; the Mohican complex which includes- Mohican State Park, Malabar Farm State Park (home to Louis Bromfield) and Pleasant Hill Reservoir; and perhaps most notably in recent history, a part of the Shawshank Trail where scenes from the famous movie were filmed. The Pleasant Valley, Clearfork Valley, The Highlands, and Mohican area rely on preservation of the history and natural landscape to maintain a sense of economic security and peaceful enjoyment of home.

Now comes outside interests in the form of Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation, in collusion with TransCanada Corporation. TransCanada acquired Columbia Pipeline Group (which includes Columbia Gas Transmission LLC) in July of 2016. Columbia Gas Transmission operates two distribution facilities in the area as well as numerous well storage fields, depleted reservoirs that are used to store resources during low periods of consumption and consequently are withdrawn during peak usage. Columbia has held subsurface mineral rights down to the Clinton Sandstone layer for decades in order to control the well storage fields. Many landowners have had numerous issues with Columbia Gas in the past. TransCanada/Columbia Gas has entered into a ‘secret’ sublease agreement with Cabot Oil to amend the current lease with landowners.  Furthermore, Cabot is seeking a new lease from landowners to drill deeper down through the methane storage fields and then horizontally through the shale. In order to acquire the deeper mineral rights and force residents to amend the Columbia lease, Cabot has employed Western Land Services, a land acquisition company specializing in obtaining sub-surface mineral right agreements. Western Land Services have taken a strategy of strong arm tactics to convince landowners to sign. They have not been completely upfront with land owners regarding activity in their communities.

Due to the escalating situation, landowners have united to educate their neighbors and work towards maintaining local control over their land and communities. The Monroe Township Landowners Coalition, Hayesville Community on Fracked Gas, Advocates for Local Land and Clear Fork Landowners Group are all organic, grass roots groups who have joined forces to maintain and nourish their communities as they are today- peaceful, thriving, family-focused areas that are environmentally stable and provide a magnificent slice of heaven to call home.

A resident from Monroe Township in Richland county stated: ” Surrounding our community are many environmental resources already in harmony with us: Malabar Farm including Mount Jeez Overlook, Pleasant Hill and Charles Mill Lakes, many outdoor education schools such as: Camp Otyokwah, Camp Nuhop and the Mohican Outdoor School, and including Mohican Memorial Forest. We want to preserve and protect all of the activities of camping, biking, hiking, hunting, birding and canoeing that tens of thousands of Ohioans enjoy here every year. We have some of the best water in Ohio, like the spring at Malabar Farm.  You can’t drink money and repair the damage of Industrial Invasion. Offers of vague contracts, promises of money, and permanent reconstruction of roads and landscape should not be considered or agreed to without educated research.  I went to visit a few of my neighbors here in Monroe Township to ask their position on Cabot’s sublease. I was delighted by the responses I received.  The vast majority oppose drilling and fracking for oil. They have a passion to preserve this beautiful land. We have united and formed a strong coalition to oppose Cabot. Can’t we as a nation leave this beautiful valley alone for all of the residents living here and tourists that visit?   Let’s think about the legacy we leave our children… clean water, abundant recreation and beautiful farms, forest and meadows. Won’t you join us in our efforts to oppose Cabot Oil and Gas? For more information write Monroe Township Landowners Coalition at :

In Ashland county, the sentiment is similar, however the owner of a small horse farm felt that the unspoken danger was to landowners who would be forced against their will to risk their land: “People who do not sign leases face the same danger of wells contaminated with neurotoxins, carcinogens, and endocrine disruptors even though they will receive no royalties from the resources recovered and must in addition pay to have their water wells tested because the burden of proof of environmental degradation falls on individual landowners, not on the oil and gas companies.  They are required to test water wells within 1500-2500 feet of the well, but contamination can occur miles from a fracked well.  Tests for all chemicals used in fracking can cost more than $1000 and have to be done several times a year in order to provide sufficient evidence that drilling created the contamination.  Who has the money to pay for those tests, leave home if necessary, and hire attorneys to fight for them?  What working person has the time for protracted court cases?  Even when companies provide clean water to families harmed by drilling, they have refused to provide enough water for animals.  The disastrous record of Cabot Oil and Gas is well-documented that in Dimock Township, PA, 33% of water wells were contaminated due to poor construction.  Even when people were compensated, the claims took years to settle.” Contact HCFG at:

A little further east, folks in Holmes County are adamant about making good choices, not just for instant gratification of a small sign on bonus, but for future generations who will inherit those choices: “We all make critical choices at critical points in our lives. As the Native American proverb states, "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children." We can't close our eyes. Do we care about what was given us? In the end, where we will have to turn if we have destroyed our basic needs for greed? Will we be better off than before? Remember the Golden Rule is NOT about gold. We cannot drink money! Our family has chosen to become educated on these issues; we will not sell our health and our well-being; some things are not for sale at any price! Our family is committed to be stewards, not pillagers, of these priceless gifts of land, water, air, and life that we ALL have been given. We have made our choices to protect and maintain the beauty and health of our land and all life upon it. What will you do? What choices will you make? Choose wisely. Advocates for Local Land is here to work together to protect and to enhance the health, beauty and sustainability of our community. Please join us. We welcome your input.  For more info please contact us at:

To return back to southern Richland County to discover how folks feel about unwanted drilling, we come full circle: “When we received the letter from Cabot Oil & Gas, and then received copies of our original lease with Columbia Gas and the amended lease from Cabot, we were disturbed by numerous provisions in the amended lease.  The permanence of the lease, the totally inadequate protections in case of environmental accidents, the insulting levels of reimbursement, and the loss of control of one’s land were just a few of the provisions which led us to determine that this agreement should be opposed. The more we learned about the handling of waste, the amount of truck traffic on these rural roads, the light and sound pollution which would effectively ruin our community, it became important to form a landowners group to educate and advocate on behalf of the landowners and the larger community. When we saw the disrespectful offer from Cabot/Columbia to Valley landowners, we had to wonder how much they would respect the land and community once they controlled our land. That’s why we helped to organize Clear Fork Landowners Group. That’s why we are here.  For more info please contact us at:

No one invited Cabot Oil to invade this area with their dirty, fracking, unconventional extraction processes. Further adding salt to the wound is the collaboration between TransCanada/Columbia Gas, the same Columbia Gas that landowners have been at odds with for many years. Inalienable rights; the rights of nature and the rights of these landowners to enjoy their properties as they have dreamed of doing should not be trumped by legal rights of corporations who have no real ties to the community. I’ll politely suggest that Cabot Oil pack it up and leave, while asking Columbia Gas to work with individual landowners to draft updated lease agreements that are fully transparent and reflect the needs of those who actually own the property Columbia currently leases subsurface rights from. The legal rights that Oil and Gas corporations have bought from our legislature need to be rescinded, so that the inalienable rights guaranteed to citizens by the US Constitution take priority and ensure that the process of protecting the rights of nature (of which humans are a part) through due diligence and common sense, be the first step in approaching a community and protecting local interests first.   (This is part 2 of 3 in a series detailing Cabot Oil’s practices. Part 1 “COLA Fizzles OUT” : )