West Virginia decisions highlight conflict between oil & gas companies, landowners

In contrast to its recent ruling in Andrews v. Antero (See ShaleOhio, June 14), the West Virginia Supreme Court’s decision in EQT Production Company v. Margot Beth Crowder and David Wentz represents “a rare victory for residents,” according to ProPublica. Landowners and lessors Crowder and Wentz sued EQT when EQT drilled on their land to access natural gas underneath neighboring properties. The high court ruled that lessees may only use surface lands to aid in the development of minerals “underlying the [leased] tract;” developers may not use the surface lands of a lessor to develop an adjacent tract without the express permission of the landowner. The 5-0 ruling sets a legal precedent in defining EQT’s actions as trespassing. Read ProPublica’s comparison here.

West Virginia

WV high court sides with Antero in implied surface easement dispute

Law 360 reports that the West Virginia Supreme Court has issued its ruling in the matter of Robert L. Andrews et al. v. Antero Resources Corp. et al. The court addressed whether the plaintiff landowners were unreasonably and substantially burdened by the defendant gas developers’ activities on and around their land. The majority opinion held that the plaintiffs failed to present evidence of such a burden, particularly on the issue of whether Antero’s activities to develop the mineral estate were reasonably necessary. In addition, the court found that the landowners’ stated “…annoyances, inconveniences, and discomforts” in relation to Antero’s activities on the property “simply do not rise to the level of a substantial burden” as required by West Virginia case law.

The 3-2 decision affirms the lower court’s ruling that the defendants acted in accordance with their implied rights to use the surface estates. Justice Jenkins wrote the majority opinion. In dissent, Justice Workman criticized the majority for failing to provide any guidance on the interplay of the competing rights of a surface landowner and a mineral estate owner. Law 360 notes that this type of conflict between oil & gas E&P companies and landowners is on the rise in West Virginia; it's expected that the number will only continue to grow because of the prevalence of split surface and mineral estates in the Appalachian region.

West Virginia

Nearly half of U.S. natural gas will come from the Ohio Valley by 2040, expanding development potential

Farm and Dairy reports the results of an IHS Markit study which point to an exponential increase in production from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations. According to the study, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will supply nearly half of the nation’s natural gas by 2040. The study also quantifies cost advantages of producing natural gas liquids in the Midwest; projected savings are pushing petrochemical plants to look closely at the region for expansion and construction. Read the full story.

Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia