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The casualties of Chesapeake's "land grab" across America

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Chesapeake land grabRanjana Bhandari and her husband knew the natural gas beneath their ranch-style home in Arlington, Texas, could be worth a lot - especially when they got offer after offer from Chesapeake Energy Corp.

Chesapeake wanted to drill there, and the offers could have netted the couple thousands of dollars in a bonus and royalties. But Bhandari says they ultimately declined the deals because they oppose fracking in residential areas. Fracking, slang for hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial method used to extract gas and oil.

Their repeated refusals didn't stop Chesapeake, the second-largest natural gas producer in the United States. This June, after petitioning a Texas state agency for an exception to a 93-year-old statute, the company effectively secured the ability to drain the gas from beneath the Bhandari property anyway - without having to pay the couple a penny.

In fact, since January 2005, the Texas agency has rejected just five of Chesapeake's 1,628 requests for such exceptions, a Reuters review of agency data shows. Chesapeake has sought the most exceptions during that time - almost twice the number sought by a subsidiary of giant rival Exxon Mobil, Reuters found.

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