Recent decisions issued by the Ohio Supreme Court have provided reminders that there are meaningful limits to the jurisdiction and powers of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and other state agencies. Those challenging the final orders and decisions of Ohio’s various state commissions and agencies often find themselves facing a steep uphill climb. In addition to demonstrating prejudicial error, such challengers face entrenched doctrines of judicial deference to agency decision-making.
Porter Wright has provided advice and industry insight to our energy clients and to the broader community for decades. In order to accurately reflect the scope of our experience and capabilities, and to continue to provide the latest energy-related updates and information in an easily accessible way, we have expanded and relaunched our Oil & Gas Law Report blog as the Energy Law Report.
The Ohio Supreme Court has finally put to rest a long-standing debate about whether Ohio’s Marketable Title Act (MTA), Dormant Mineral Act (DMA), or both, may be applied to reunite severed mineral interests with the overlying surface estate. In a majority opinion decided Dec. 2, 2020, the court held that both acts may be independently applied to mineral estates. The court held, “The Marketable Title Act and the Dormant Mineral Act afford independent procedures, either of which may be used to effect the termination of a severed mineral interest, depending on the circumstances of the case and the time that has elapsed.” West v. Bode, 2020-Ohio-5473, ¶ 44.
Ohio landowners and holders of mineral interests should soon receive clarification regarding certain mineral rights. On Sept. 1, 2020, the Supreme Court of Ohio accepted Fonzi v. Brown for review, a case involving the Ohio Dormant Mineral Act (ODMA). Fonzi joins Gerrity v. Chervenak and West v. Bode, as the third major case on the court’s docket that raises questions about the ODMA and/or Marketable Title Act (MTA).
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Division of Oil & Gas Resources Management (DOGRM) recently revised its rules governing spacing of horizontal oil and gas production wells. The new rules, which became effective on Oct. 10, 2019, will bring Ohio’s horizontal well spacing regulations in line with what accepted science and drilling data indicates is a more efficient and productive spacing for horizontal wells in Ohio.
Under the prior version of Ohio Administrative Code §1501:9-1-04, which applied to both conventional and horizontal wells, any oil and gas production well drilled into a pool located at least 4,000 feet in depth must be set back at least 500 feet from the boundary of the leased tract or drilling unit. That prior version of the rule also required a spacing of at least 1,000 feet between wells producing from the same pool. Continue Reading New Ohio regulations reduce minimum spacing requirements for horizontal oil and gas wells
The Ohio Supreme Court recently settled an open question under Ohio’s Marketable Title Act (MTA), determining that a reference to the type of interest created and to whom it was granted is all that is necessary under the MTA to preserve the interest. And interestingly, despite the existence of the Dormant Mineral Act (DMA), the Supreme Court applied the MTA to an oil and gas interest.
In Blackstone v. Moore, landowners filed a lawsuit against the owners of an oil and gas royalty interest underlying the landowners’ property, seeking to extinguish the interest under the MTA (Because the appellees (Kuhn heirs) had filed an affidavit to preserve their mineral interest within sixty days of receiving the Blackstones’ notice of intent to declare the mineral interest abandoned, there was no question that they had preserved their interests under the DMA). Created in 1915, the oil and gas royalty interest arose prior to the “root of title” (the last recorded title transaction before the preceding 40 years from when marketability is being determined) and therefore was subject to extinguishment under the MTA.
On Dec.19, 2018, Gov. John Kasich signed SB 263 into law, which amends ORC 4735 to exempt oil and gas land professionals (landmen) from the licensure requirements imposed on real estate agents and brokers. The revisions to sections 4735.01 and 4735.023 introduce the concept of an “oil and gas land professional” (new ORC 4735.01(GG)), and exempts landmen from the definition of “real estate broker,” “real estate salesperson,” “foreign real estate dealer” and “foreign real estate salesperson” through new ORC 4735.01(I)(1)(h) and (i).
SB 263 also introduces a new section 4735.023, requiring ongoing registration requirements for landmen, an annual fee, an obligation for landmen to maintain membership in a national oil and gas land professional group (such as the American Association of Professional Landmen, or AAPL), and specific disclosure requirements to landowners.
The new law will take effect in 90 days, and is a direct response to the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in Dundics et al. v. Eric Petroleum Corp., 2018-Ohio-286, where the Court held that landmen who negotiate oil and gas leases must be licensed as real estate agents and otherwise comply with the requirements of ORC 4735. As a result, SB 263 now provides a welcome distinction between landmen and real estate agents, and imposes more appropriate requirements and obligations for oil and gas landmen.
Many thanks to Kevin Scott for his assistance in preparing this post.
On June 14, 2018, Governor Kasich signed into law H.B. 430 which will go into effect in September of 2018. The bill clarifies the language covering sales and use tax exemptions for certain oil and gas industry participants. Specifically, the new law modifies the existing statute governing the sales and use tax exemption for property used directly in producing oil or gas. Following recent actions by the Ohio Department of Taxation, H.B. 430 can help to ensure predictability and stability by reaffirming the sales tax exemptions received by Ohio oil and gas operators and service providers. Continue Reading New Ohio tax law clarifies and expands sales and use tax exemptions for the oil and gas industry
On March 5, 2018, the West Virginia Legislature passed new legislation known as the Cotenancy Modernization and Majority Protection Act, W. Va. Code § 37B-1-1 et seq. (Cotenancy Statute). This new Cotenancy Statute, which became effective June 3, 2018, is intended to facilitate oil and gas development of West Virginia properties that have numerous fractional oil and gas owners. It applies to tracts in which there are seven or more owners of the oil and gas in place, and changes West Virginia law by allowing an operator to produce oil and gas without the consent of all oil and gas owners under certain circumstances.
Prior to passage of the Cotenancy Statute, West Virginia law mandated consent of 100 percent of the oil and gas owners before an operator could lawfully develop the oil and gas estate. If any oil and gas owner refused to sign a lease, regardless of how small that non-consenting owner’s fractional interest, the operator was compelled to either forego development or file a partition action under W. Va. Code § 37-4-3. Through partition, an operator could acquire the non-consenting owner’s interest at fair market value, as appraised by three special commissioners appointed by the court. Continue Reading West Virginia joins majority view on oil and gas leasing with new cotenancy statute