OUR EXPERIENCE IS ON YOUR SIDE OUR EXPERIENCE IS ON YOUR SIDE
A Blessing or a Curse?
By: Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Harris, Waters, Waffenschmidt & Dohrmann
The Marcellus Shale formation lies beneath roughly two-thirds of Pennsylvania. Geologists have known about the large deposits of natural gas within this rock for many years, but drilling was, until recently, prohibitively expensive. The trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are found a mile underground. Advances in technology have made these valuable deposits accessible and Oil and Gas companies have quickly moved into areas like Wellsboro and Towanda in Tioga and Bradford Counties and Lycoming County as well. They have been systematically negotiating leases with landowners called mineral leases, reserving the right to drill and collect the natural gas found on that property.
The United States is one of the few countries where ownership of mineral resources was originally granted to the person, or organization, who purchased the land. This complete ownership is called fee-simple. Over the years, due to sales, leases, and bequests, the ownership of real estate may belong to multiple people or companies. The once fee-simple property now has multiple layers of ownership. These layers should be clearly identified by anyone looking to purchase it before closing.
When purchasing your land and home you had an attorney or title company perform what is called a title search. This purpose of this process is to identify surface and mineral rights before the sale is finalized. The sale of mineral rights may not be recorded in the same deed book as the surface sale of the property. Particularly in areas of historical mining activity, more thorough research is necessary to be sure you are purchasing all rights to the property. This helps prevent future dispute and issues.
During the Great Depression in the late 20's and early 30's, people were looking for ways to make extra money. In this area of Pennsylvania, selling oil and gas rights was a lucrative option. Central and western Pennsylvania was, at one time, the largest oil producer in the country.
As years pass and ownership changes hands, information related to mineral rights becomes more difficult to locate. Unfortunately for many people, they have bought land or inherited land only to find out that the mineral rights were transferred many years previously. This can cause severe economic loss.
If you have found yourself in a situation like this, you do have options. You may be a victim of negligence on both the part of the attorney as well as the title insurance company. You may be entitled to seek compensation if you were not aware of the fact that mineral rights were transferred out of the property that you purchased or inherited. Drilling in the Marcellus Shale for gas also implicates serious environmental concerns both with respect to air and water quality. With increased drilling and loose regulations, many of these questions concerning ownership as well as serious environmental implications may require you to seek legal counsel.
If you are experiencing problems in connection with Marcellus Shale gas drilling, call us. Our experience is on your side.