The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

February 23, 2008

Geologist’s dual role in gas leases causes concerns

The geologist offering his paid services as an agent to area landowners to help them get the best gas lease also is an executive with the Pennsylvania Game Commission who is in charge of, among other things, gas leases on state gamelands.

Some question whether this moonlighting poses a conflict of interest.

In his day job in Harrisburg, William Capouillez is director of the Bureau of Wildlife Habitat and oversees oil and gas and mining leases on 1.4 million acres of gamelands.

After working hours, and described only as a geologist and not as a state employee, he conducts seminars for landowners who have been approached by natural gas companies wanting a lease.

If they sign with him as their agent, he will get them higher lease income and better terms, he says. In return, he and his private company, Geological Assessment and Leasing of McVeytown, would get 25 cents of every dollar Capouillez negotiated for the landowner above the rate first offered by the gas company, plus 50 percent of royalties above the set rate.

For the Game Commission manager, it’s an extra income above the approximate $70,000 annually he earns from the state. For the landowner, it’s a better lease than expected.

But for some gas companies, a state official wearing these two hats poses, in the words of one, “a sensitive situation.”

They must please a state official who controls gas leasing on state gamelands, and who at the same time is a private consultant to landowners negotiating their own gas leases – often with the same gas company.

Capouillez says his outside activities are on record and sanctioned by the Game Commission and that he has no conflict of interest or dubious ethics area.

In fact, the only reason he does not disclose his state employment when conducting seminars is to avoid a conflict of interest.

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