Although Cunningham Energy officials have said the company has tens of thousands of acres under lease in Athens County, paperwork on only a fraction of that has been filed so far in the Athens County Recorder's Office.
On Nov. 8, Cunningham land manager Joe Blackhurst told The Messenger that the company had between 55,000 and 60,000 acres in Athens County under lease as a result of lease-signing events held at the Dairy Barn and Ohio University Inn. Then on Nov. 29, at a lease event at the county fairgrounds organized by attorney John Lavelle and attended by Blackhurst, Lavelle said Cunningham had obtained leases for 64,000 acres in the county and was hoping to secure another 10,000 to 20,000 acres.
Cunningham officials could not be reached Friday for updated figures.
In an interview Saturday, Lavelle reported that an all-day lease-signing event with Cunningham at the fairgrounds on Tuesday resulted in more than 400 Athens County landowners signing leases with the company. Lavelle estimated those leases - which include property ranging from 1.2 acres to 800 acres - cover more than 30,000 acres, and he said Cunningham has reiterated its commitment to take every acre signed up.
"Literally hundreds of people came" to Tuesday's event, Lavelle said, "everyone from disabled veterans to cancer survivors."
"It was overwhelming to me to see the look of hope in those people's eyes," Lavelle said. "A lot of people down on their luck now see hope."
Lavelle noted the impact the leases could have on the local economy. Under the lease terms with Cunningham, the lessor is entitled to a one-time $2,500 bonus payment for each acre leased to be paid by March 15.