January 25th, 2019
Could WV Soon Face Ohio’s Dormant Mineral Act Mess?
Ohio courts have struggled for the last 8 to 10 years with a tremendous amount of litigation related to its Dormant Mineral Act. The Act, in theory, allowed surface owners to reclaim previously severed oil and gas interests if the owner/holder of those severed mineral interests had not done certain things with their minerals over a 20-year period. Ohio has had two different versions of the law and has fought through myriad of legal issues attempting to resolve ownership disputes and disputes as to whether land owners followed the proper procedure or gave the proper notice to mineral owners. It has been so much of a mess that many attorneys now simply refuse to work on the issues. The law and the resulting disputes have trigged many different types of cases and fights such that many oil and gas companies are withholding all lease payments as the issues work themselves out.
House Bill 2373 was introduced on January 14, 2019 and has been referred to the House Energy Committee before it will pass along to the House Judiciary Committee. Should surface owners be able to acquire rights to the oil and gas under their property if they don’t already own it? Should the state support the taking of mineral rights away from families and individuals who have owned those rights for decades? Will it even make a difference with as far as the gas industry has progressed in West Virginia? West Virginia has already has laws that permit the development of oil and gas right when the rightful owners cannot be found. That law even provides a mechanism to permit a surface owner to get the benefit of those minerals if the owners cannot ultimately be found. While it may be a way to stream line the determination of oil and gas mineral ownership, it could also be opening new cans of worms. This is certainly a bill to keep an eye on this legislative session in West Virginia.
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