Due to the explosion of activity in the Haynesville Shale, the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association has hired one of Gov. Bobby Jindal's former policy advisers, Jodee Niswanger, to serve as its north Louisiana director. She's heading the trade organization's new office in Shreveport , which opens Sept. 1 to address issues related to what many believe may be the largest natural gas shale play in the country.

LOGA President Don Briggs says the talk of the town throughout the northwest Louisiana region is money, with rumors of $25,000 lease bonuses and quarter royalties. His office receives calls every day from residents in the shale region wanting to know when drilling will begin in their areas, and some residents have been forming coalitions that are considering filing suit against natural gas and exploration companies that paid lower bonuses in the early stages of the project. Briggs hopes the local office can educate people about the process, including the fact that lease values are mainly based on speculation -- and that someone who only got $150 an acre may end up in a sweet spot and receive millions in well revenue.

"Although lease values seem to be escalating with no end in sight," says Briggs, "it would take just one dry hole to condemn a large area, and lease values in that vicinity could drop like a stone." Disgruntled residents who think they've been misled should keep in mind that their bonus amount was based on the market price at the time, he stresses. "They can also rest assured that if a company drills their leased property and does not find commercial amounts of natural gas, they will not be asked to return their lease bonus payments to the company."

Briggs says Niswanger, a Monroe native who earned her juris doctor from Tulane Law School, is well-suited for the job, having held the position of economic development and natural resources policy director during Jindal's transition. She continued on as policy adviser, handling issues in the departments of environmental quality, wildlife and fisheries, natural resources and agriculture.

The 29-year-old recently relocated to Shreveport because her fiance is entering his first year of medical school residency.

 

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