Co-author Brittany Blakey

After a trial court order, two appellate opinions, a dissent, and another appellate opinion, the tension between a well operator and an adjacent mineral owner over whether hydraulic fracturing can constitute a subsurface trespass in Pennsylvania has, for the most part, been resolved. In Briggs v. Southwestern Production Company, several points of Pennsylvania law have been confirmed:

  • Well operators may use hydraulic fracturing to drain oil and gas from under another’s property, at least in the absence of physical invasion.
  • The rule of capture does not preclude trespass liability if the operation creates a physical invasion.
  • The mineral owner’s complaint must specifically allege that the operator engaged in horizontal drilling that extended onto their property or that the operator propelled frack fluids and proppants across the property line.


Continue Reading Pennsylvania Rule of Capture Still Bars Subsurface Trespass Claim

Co-author Rusty Tucker

The threat: You, the operator, are operating unprofitable wells where monthly costs exceed or barely equal revenues, making money on the fixed COPAS overhead charges. Your non-operators are going into the economic hole and they don’t like it.

Yesterday we presented options for the non–operator to stop the financial bleeding. Today we anticipate responses available to the operator.

Yesterday’s caveats still apply.
Continue Reading My Operator is Making Money … Part 2, The Operator’s Response

Co-author Rusty Tucker

With the plunge in commodity prices many formerly profitable wells are now in the red, and we don’t know for how long. This is causing non-operators to question the bona fides of the operations … and of the operator, and to search for a way out of their obligations.

The challenge: The operator is operating unprofitable wells where monthly costs exceed or barely equal revenues, making money on fixed COPAS overhead charges, and non-operators are going into the economic hole.  What can the non–operator do to stop the financial bleeding?
Continue Reading My Operator is Making Money on the Well and I’m Not. What Can I Do? Part 1.

A fellow walks into a bar in New Orleans. “What’ll it be?” “A Corona and two Hurricanes,” says he. “Here you go. That’ll be $20.20.”

Co-author Rusty Tucker

Now, on to operations in hurricane-free New Mexico. Lessons from BEPCO, L.P. v. RMTDC Operations, LLC d/b/a Total Energy Services:

  • Hire a good company man and trust him
  • Get a good expert for trial
  • Prep your witnesses well for deposition and trial


Continue Reading Company Man Wins MSA Dispute

Co-author Rusty Tucker

In Evans Resources, L.P., et al. v. Diamondback E&P, LLC, two agreements left the terms “constructed” and “utilized” undefined. If the terms had been defined would the outcome have been different? Maybe. Should parties define every term in an agreement? No, if they are content to rely on the ordinary meaning of the words.

The agreements


Continue Reading “Construction” of a Well Pad Requires More than a Survey

The question in Cannisnia Plantation, LLC v. Cecil Blount Farms, LLC was whether a well was drilled in good faith in order to interrupt the running of prescription on a Louisiana mineral servitude.

The Mineral Servitude

If you conduct your business where they don’t have the Mardi Gras, the nutria, or the King of Zydeco, be mindful that in Louisiana there is no “mineral estate” that lives in perpetuity. Instead, there is the mineral servitude. See Mineral Code Article 21: “ … the right of enjoyment of land belonging to another for the purpose of exploring for and producing minerals and reducing them to possession and ownership.” Among the modes of extinction of mineral servitudes is prescription for nonuse for 10 years.


Continue Reading Louisiana Servitude Extended by Good Faith Drilling

Co-authors Paul Yale and Rusty Tucker

The concurrence and dissent in Briggs et al v. Southwestern Energy Production Company appears to be of little help to property owners complaining of trespass by fracking where there is no invasion of frack fluids on to the neighbor’s property. Justice Dougherty, joined by Justice Donohue, agreed with the majority that the rule of capture “remains effective in Pennsylvania to protect a developer from trespass liability where there has been no physical invasion of another’s property.” And they believed the majority correctly recognized that “if there is such a physical invasion the rule of capture will not insulate a developer engaged in hydraulic fracturing from trespass liability.”

The dissenters spent most of their time on issues of pleading and procedure, arguing that it was erroneous to suggest that Briggs didn’t allege a physical invasion. They would have affirmed the Superior Court’s disposition insofar as it vacated summary judgment and remanded it for further factual development, in particular completion of discovery on the factual question of physical invasion.
Continue Reading Pennsylvania Says No Trespass by Fracking – the Dissent

Co-authors Paul Yale and Rusty Tucker

Herein, highlights from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Briggs, et al. v. Southwestern Energy Production Company. The rule of capture applies to oil and gas produced from wells completed using hydraulic fracturing and precludes trespass liability for drainage from under nearby property, where the well is drilled solely on and beneath the driller’s own property and frack fluids are injected solely beneath the driller’s own property.

Why is this a big deal?

This decision is only the second application by a state supreme court of the rule of capture to hydraulic fracturing (from Texas, Coastal Oil & Gas Corp. v. Garza Energy Trust was the first). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has reached a similar result – drainage resulting from hydraulic fracturing does not itself constitute trespass.
Continue Reading Pennsylvania Supreme Court Says No Trespass by Fracking