What can stop a natural gas boom?
Probably not much. But limited space in the records room is slowing things down in Tyler County.
"People running title for oil and gas leasing companies are lining up as early as 2 a.m. to get a spot in the courthouse," a resident wrote in a news tip to WBOY. "I know people who have gotten in line at 4 a.m. and there are 50-60 people in front of them. It's absolutely crazy, especially with the (temperatures) we are having this week."
County Commission President John Stender filled The State Journal in.
"We have a limited number of spaces in our vault room. I think the fire marshal limits us to 16 spaces, and we leave two open for local attorneys and people in the county who need to do business where the records are," Stender said.
"What's happening is these companies have signed leases, and they're trying to verify title so they can pay out the money to hold the leases," he said. "I think they have 120 days to do that after signing, so the crunch is on."
The county clerk has people sign up by the hour, but that still leaves room for other kinds of elbow-jostling.
"Some of these people are showing up and putting chairs out there, and one person last night put a can of fruit, saving spots so they can get in in the mornings," Stender said.
"Subcontractors have advertised for people to stand in line for their people. I heard it was $15 an hour to stand in line — I'm thinking of going down there!" he joked.
The representatives of the bigger oil and gas companies work respectfully and, in at least one company's case, tend to be locals, Stender said, but "a minority" of the employees of the subcontractors — "well, some of them aren't very nice. They're pushy."
The County Commission has spoken with Antero Resources, Stender said, and is going to talk next week with Triad Hunter and Stone Energy.
"Maybe we could work out a system where we'd stay open later," he said, extending the schedule from the current 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. five days a week with one night per month until 6 p.m., instead staying open until 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Stender also told Antero that the commission has looked at the possibility of building an annex, and that it could be done for $2 million.
"They didn't say yes, they didn't say no. They just looked at me," he said. "But whatever we do, somebody has to pick up the tab for it. We're a small county, and we can't afford it."
Stender emphasized the county's understanding that the activity ultimately is in the best interests of the mineral owners and others in the county, and that it wants to make things work.
"All the people coming in to work at the courthouse eat at the restaurants, they buy gas. It's a win for the taxpayers and the ones that get the contracts and the companies, and we want to help them," he said. "We're more than happy to work with anybody, if they'll meet us and work with us."
He expects to have a solution in place within the month.