Insight: To flee Ohio oil boom, Amish cash out by selling royalties

Fri Dec 20, 2013 1:15pm EST
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By Ernest Scheyder

ST CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio (Reuters) - Farmers in the close-knit Amish community who eschew electricity and most technology, are among landowners capitalizing on a new financial trend in the United States energy boom - selling decades of future oil and natural gas royalties for an immediate pile of cash.

Gulfport Energy Corp, Chesapeake Energy Corp, Anadarko Petroleum Corp and others have spent billions developing oil and gas reserves on land in Ohio's Utica shale formation - often by agreeing to give landowners years of royalties, or a cut of future production, in exchange for the right to drill on their land.

Some Amish, traditionalist Christians numbering about 280,000 across the United States, are sitting on prime drilling land in eastern Ohio, but many say the rapid development is encroaching on their pastoral way of life.

Already this year, several oil trucks have been involved in fatal collisions with Amish horse-drawn buggies in the region's narrow and winding roads.

So, many Amish are cashing out to escape the noise as their bucolic landscape of lush green hills becomes dotted with oil storage tanks and rumbles with the buzz of oil rigs.

"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 Ohio's Guernsey County, said at his farmhouse, his 4-year-old grandson bobbing on his knee.

Byler, who mills walnut timber for furniture, decided earlier in December to sell half of his future oil and natural gas royalties to Flatiron Energy Partners, a private firm that specializes in those transactions.

Flatiron is paying Byler $221,195 cash, an amount that will be tax-free thanks to an arcane part of the U.S. tax code if Byler follows through on plans to relocate his family to Pennsylvania.   Continued...

Austin Eudaly (L), an executive with Flatiron Energy Partners, talks with members of the Ohio Amish community at the Deersville, Ohio, Volunteer Fire Department on December 10, 2013.REUTERS/Ernest Scheyder