Co-author Ethan Wood

We told you to “Beware of Strips and Gores” back in 2012 and today we bring you Green et al v. Chesapeake et al, the sequel. Unlike cinema’s greatest follow-ups, this entry feels more like an unneeded rehash of the original. Nevertheless, it is a good refresher on the topic.

 

Rules for the Genre

The strip-and-gore doctrine operates to pass title to lands in addition to the lands described in a conveyance when:

  1. The adjoining land is relatively narrow, small in size and value in
    comparison to the expressly conveyed land, and no longer important or valuable to the grantor of the larger tract;
  2. The adjoining land was not included in the property description in the deed at issue; and
  3. No other language in the deed indicates that the grantor intended to reserve an interest in the adjoining land.

Continue Reading Strip and Gore 2: The Sequel

In a ruling that could benefit mineral owners who don’t regularly examine county deed records (to-wit, you?) the Supreme Court of Texas in Carl M. Archer Trust No. Three et al v. Tregellas held that the discovery rule delayed the running of the statute of limitations on behalf of the holder of a recorded right of first refusal to purchase mineral interests.

The trustees sued the Tregellases for buying the minerals without allowing the Trust to exercise its ROFR, contending that a contract was formed when they sued more than four years after the Tregellases’ purchase; the suit was their acceptance of the right to purchase the minerals, they said.

According to the Trellgases, the claim was barred by limitations because the suit was filed more than four years after the sale. The trustees responded that even if that were so, limitations should be delayed because they they had no obligation to search the county deed records.

The discovery rule described … Continue Reading Texas High Court Invokes the Discovery Rule

Co-author Lydia Webb

Q: How many New York federal judges does it take to make a mess of Texas property law?

A: In In Re: Sabine Oil and Gas Corp., five. One to get it wrong, another to affirm the wrongness, and three more for reinforcement.

For the third time, a federal court in New York has allowed an E&P debtor to reject its gas gathering agreements because its midstream counter-parties could not establish that the agreements were covenants running with the land under Texas law. This time it was the Second Circuit, which upheld a district court ruling, which upheld a  bankruptcy court ruling.

E&P debtor Sabine sought to reject a series of above-market gas gathering agreements. The bankruptcy court allowed the debtor to do exactly that, over the objection of the midstream counter-party. The question on appeal: Under Texas law, are midstream agreements covenants running with the land (and thus, cannot be rejected in bankruptcy)?

This result could have wide-reaching negative effects on the oil and gas industry.  We won’t delve deep into the weeds of the legal analysis.  But we will raise a serious question about the process.

Horizontal privity?

The key question was whether Texas law requires a showing of horizontal privity as part of the covenant analysis.  The New York courts concluded that Texas requires horizontal privity, which was not satisfied under the present circumstances. This allowed Sabine to escape from its midstream agreements.

Horizontal privity requires that the parties make their covenant in connection with, and at the same time as, a conveyance of real property.  The Second Circuit acknowledged that the trend across the country is to do away with the horizontal privity requirement. However, the Court went on to rationalize that “[i]t would be improper for us to read a traditional requirement of real covenants out of Texas state law when there is no Texas law instructing courts to do so.”

The maddening reality

The test, according to the Texas Supreme Court, does not include horizontal privity as a requirement for a covenant to run with the land!

Rather than opining on the nuances of Texas property law, the Second Circuit could have (and should have) certified the question to the Texas Supreme Court so that the law could be uniformly applied by all federal courts in similar cases arising from contracts for the transportation or sale of Texas oil and gas production.  This option would have made the most sense and was proposed by several trade groups.

The Texas high court, the ultimate authority on Texas common law, should decide what it takes to constitute a covenant running with the land in this state – not a federal court sitting thousands of miles away and not at all versed in Texas property law. Leave it to the experts and let Texas tell the world how its laws should be interpreted and enforced.

Railroaded?

Co-author Ethan Wood

Let’s begin with a quiz. True or false:

  • Apache Resources, LLC (n/k/a “Pueblo Resources, LLC.” Wonder why?) is Apache Corporation.
  • Plains Natural Resources, LLC is Plains Exploration & Production Company.
  • Ridge Natural Resources, LLC is Oak Ridge Natural Resources, LLC.
  • Range Royalty, LLC is Range Resources Corporation.

If you answered “false” to all four, congratulations. In each category the latter companies are reputable independent oil and gas producers. The former are … well, let’s just call them “mineral buyers” (seemingly coordinated in their efforts in some murky way), one of which was the winner – for now – in Ridge Resources, LLC et al v. Double Eagle Royalty, LP Continue Reading An Arbitration Ruling That’s About More Than Arbitration

Co-author Chance Decker

Is an overriding royalty interest lasting beyond the term of a lease-now-in-effect impossible to create?  You saw the recent Texas Supreme Court opinion invalidating an anti-washout clause in TRO-X v. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. Now, you see Tommy Yowell et al v. Granite Operating Company et al.  In light of these opinions one could wonder if an override is as valuable a tool in an oil and gas trade as it used to be.

An assault on overrides? Continue Reading Anti-Washout Clause Defeated by the Rule Against Perpetuities

The pitches in your arsenal are your fastball and your curveball; it’s the late innings; third time around the batting order; they’re sitting on the fastball. Once they catch up to it (and they will unless you’re Justin Verlander which, face it, you are not), goodbye game. Why not go to the bender to keep ’em uncomfortable and give you options? In Lackey v. Templetonplaintiffs stayed with the heater. Goodbye game.

The lesson to be learned Continue Reading Texas Court Tells Plaintiffs How to Recover Title to Property

Co-author Ethan Wood

Coke or Pepsi? Elvis or the Beatles? Should there be a designated hitter? Fixed or floating royalty? Among the great debates of recent decades, few have proven quite as frustrating as the great “Fixed v. Floating” royalty debate in Texas jurisprudence.

A royalty can be conveyed or reserved in two ways: as a fixed fraction of total production (fractional royalty interest) or as a fraction of the total royalty interest (fraction of royalty interest). The fractional interest is “fixed” because it is untethered to the royalty in a particular oil and gas lease. A fraction of royalty is “floating” because it varies depending on the royalty in the lease. Continue Reading Texas Supreme Court Decides Another Fixed-or-Floating Royalty Case