The American Oil & Gas Reporter Guest Article: Changing Times Bring Conflict With Surface Owners


HOUSTON – For decades, companies drilling for oil and gas had law and history on their side. Drilling was a noisy, dusty and intrusive business, but it was heard and seen primarily by passing motorists on the United States’ sprawling prairies.

The law was certain and stable. Courts recognized the dominance of those holding mineral rights over surface owners who held deeds in which the mineral estates had been cut away. Courts and regulators also seemed to give a nod to the fact that oil and gas operators worked in the national interest: Their products heated our homes, offices and schools, and powered factories, trucks and cars.

The courts still recognize dominant rights, when reasonably exercised. If an operator holds mineral rights, he fundamentally has the right, under multiple laws and court decisions in many jurisdictions, to bring together workers and equipment to extract oil and gas from his underground estate.

But, as balladeer Bob Dylan wrote in 1964, “The Times They Are a-Changin’”. Dylan had the civil rights movement in mind, but today two powerful forces–the advance of technology and suburban sprawl–are colliding and signaling, once again, that times “are a-changin’.”

Excerpt from The American Oil and Gas Reporter, Dec. 6, 2011. To view the full article, click here.

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