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A Marcellus Shale case that has nothing to do with fracking p5

11/1/2014 | Real Estate Blog

Say a mining company owns an acre of land in northeastern Pennsylvania. If the company were just to sink a well and start extracting gas from the Marcellus Shale, it could be in trouble with people the company never even knew existed.

If, that is, the mining company had not done a thorough title search. Without a title search, the company would never know if someone else owned the mineral rights to that property. The company could find itself accused of mineral trespass.

The company in the case we have been discussing did check the land records, though, and that check turned up a fact that the owner of the property, a hunt club, is objecting to. The mineral rights could very well belong to the heirs of the property’s 19th Century owners. The hunt club could lose a very lucrative opportunity to lease those mineral rights for drilling.

The heirs took the hunt club to trial, where arguments centered on the question of whether the tax sale (discussed in our last post) conveyed the entirety of the land, including the mineral rights, or just the surface of the parcel. The heirs argued that their interest in the mineral rights was not subject to tax and, so, could not be sold to satisfy the unpaid tax obligation owing on the surface.

The heirs had also uncovered evidence that the family had filed a reservation of rights: The deed filed for the 1959 transfer to the hunt club included the statement, “this conveyance is subject to all exceptions and reservations as are contained in the chain of title.” The court found for the heirs.

How was it, though, that the surface of the land had been taxed but the subsurface had not? Does that even make sense?

It does make sense, but it also requires a close look at laws that have been on the books for 200 years. We’ll explain more in our next post.

Sources:, “Marcellus Shale gas boom sparks land disputes,” Andrew Maykuth, Sept. 1, 2014

Herder Spring Hunting Club v. Keller, 93 A.3d 465 (Pa.Super.,2014), via Westlaw