Amish Solution to Fracking Boom…Cash Out and Leave

Friday, January 03, 2014
Amish buggy in Middlefield, Ohio (photo: Amy Sancetta, AP)

In eastern Ohio, where oil and gas companies are offering lucrative deals to landowners, even the Amish are cashing in on the boom brought about by hydraulic fracturing.


But unlike the non-Amish accepting fracking royalties in exchange for access to their properties, the devout Christians who reject most technology are packing up and moving out of state after signing on the dotted line.


At least three dozen Amish families have reportedly sold their royalty rights or their lands altogether and now plan to move to Pennsylvania or New York.


With the likes of Gulfport Energy Corp., Chesapeake Energy Corp., Anadarko Petroleum Corp., and others offering tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars, these Amish decided it was best to take advantage of the situation and get out now.


Life in this part of the state has already become dangerous for the Amish, who travel about in horse-drawn buggies, several of which have been involved in deadly accidents with the growing number of oil trucks.


“If all this traffic and development is crazy here today, what’s it going to be like in three or four years?” Eli Byler, a member of an Amish community in Guernsey County, told Reuters.


Byler has decided to sell half of his future oil and natural gas royalties to Flatiron Energy Partners for more than $220,000. This amount will be tax-free if he relocates his family to Pennsylvania, thanks to an obscure provision in the tax code. He is keeping the other half of his royalties in a gamble that Flatiron may eventually establish an oil field on his land. Another company, Eclipse Energy Partners, already drills for oil on his property, which has so far made Byler less than $3,000 in 13 years due to the tapping of only shallow oil deposits.


Some Amish welcome the drilling due to their having “a strong sense of God's creation,” which includes oil and natural gas, Donald B. Kraybill, co-author of the book The Amish, told the Associated Press (AP). “If they can find ways to capitalize on the resources under the ground, they don't see a problem with that.”


Some Amish residents see their sell-out to the fracking operators as a test. “The inflow of all the money is going to really expose the spiritual level of the community,” Jerry Schlabach of Berlin, Ohio, told AP. “If it does corrupt in a big way, then we know we have drifted spiritually.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Amish Sell Royalties to Flee Ohio Oil Boom (by Ernest Scheyder, Reuters)

Tradition and Temptation as Amish Debate Fracking (by Julie Carr Smyth and Kevin Begos, Associated Press)

The Amish Are Getting Fracked: Their Religion Prohibits Lawsuits—and the Energy Companies Know It (by Molly Redden, New Republic)


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