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In a UNANIMOUS decision by the West Virginia Supreme Court on June 5 regarding Crowder & Wentz v. EQT Production, the court agreed that drillers and mineral owners have no right to use a surface owner’s land for well pads or roads etc. to develop minerals under neighboring mineral properties that do not underlie the surface owner’s land without the surface owner’s express permission. The Supreme court upheld the ruling previously made by Doddridge County Circuit Court, in a battle that we have been fighting for the past eight years.
Gas and other mineral companies must obtain permission from surface owners in order to use their land to reach reserves under other properties, Justice John Hutchinson wrote for the court. “The right must be expressly obtained, addressed, or reserved in the parties’ deeds, leases, or other writings,” he wrote.
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WVSORO co-founder Dave McMahon argued on behalf of the plaintiffs.“What’s really kind of sad is for eight years these companies have been going on and implying, if not telling surface owners, they had to allow the pads on there THEM and they had to take whatever money the driller was willing to pay them to do it, and that just wasn’t right,” he said.
One impact of the ruling, McMahon speculated, may be that developers will have to offer surface owners compensation for the land’s mineral production value TO THE DRILLER, not just for the face value of the surface TO THE SURFACE OWNER BEFORE THE DRILLER SHOWED UP. And if a surface owner doesn’t want the surface disturbed, wellbores are so long the driller can choose another parcel in the unit.
What does this mean for you? As a surface owner, you now have leverage when a mineral rights company is trying to drill to reach tracts around you. We are working on updating our website to reflect the new landmark decision. If you had a well pad etc on your property and you never signed a surface use agreement, you can now sue! If you DID sign a surface use agreement believing you had to, you should still sign contact a lawyer.
In the Media
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