Their religion prohibits lawsuits—and the energy companies know it.
It was late 2010 when a chipper agent for Kenoil, Inc., a drilling company in Eastern Ohio, drove to the nearby hamlet of Millersburg to visit Lloyd Miller. His car slithered down the hill overlooking the Millers's home and white farm buildings, past a set of pine green drums, pipes, and gauges—a shallow oil well that Kenoil had drilled on the Millers’s property many years ago—and stopped in front of the aluminum barn where the family, who are Amish dairy farmers, lodges its horses and buggy. The agent had an unexpected business proposition for Lloyd and his wife, Edna: Kenoil wanted to lease the right to drill on the Millers's land for shale gas. And for a lease of five years, he could offer them $10 an acre that same day.
The timing felt providential. The couple, who have several young children, were still paying off a 2006 loan they’d used to buy a small farm adjoining theirs. Gazing in the direction of his 158 acres, as he talked with me at his kitchen table in March, Miller said, “We thought, ‘Hey, that’s $1,500 we didn’t have.’” Still, he asked the agent about rumors of farmers who’d been given much larger signing bonuses in similar deals. He remembered the agent grinning dismissively as he said farms in the area were not leasing for more than what was offered. Miller, 46, considered the Kenoil well on the hill, and the years of good relations he had enjoyed with the company. “I just trusted him,” he said. The Millers signed the lease.
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