Client Success Stories
Do I have a lawyer?
We received a call from a landowner in Butler County who signed a lease with the “assistance” of a local attorney. He was part of a large “landowner group” who signed a cookie-cutter lease that was not written to his individual needs. The purpose of his call was to ask us if he could stop the gas company from installing a pipeline close to one of his water sources.
We asked the landowner if there were provisions in his lease, which covered the locating of pipelines. He did not know. We then asked him if there were provisions in his lease preventing the transportation of foreign gas across his land. He did not know. Finally, we asked him what protections of his water were afforded in his lease. He did not know. Our suggestion was that he should contact the attorney who “assisted” him in reviewing the lease to answer these basic, yet important, questions.
When we represent a landowner in the lease negotiation process, we will not permit our clients to sign the lease until they understand every item in the lease. As part of our commitment to our clients, we provide continued legal representation on issues just like this for five years after the lease is signed.
If the landowner mentioned above cannot resolve his issue with the attorney who “assisted” him, then he has only two choices: (1) He can work with the gas company on his own, or (2) he will have to hire, and pay, another attorney, knowledgeable in oil and gas law, to resolve his issues. Landowners should not be stuck with these choices when they pay someone to “assist” them with their lease. We are proud to say that none of our landowners will ever have to make such a distasteful decision.
Even in this day and age, with electronic recordkeeping and the information highway it is still possible to find lost money.
After successfully negotiating an oil and gas lease for our clients, we learned that they may have ownership in other mineral rights in another county. Our clients’ read a legal notice concerning a lawsuit over the ownership of possible mineral rights in the local newspaper that contained their names. It turns out that our clients had a distant relative in Warren County, Pennsylvania and they were the heirs to the mineral rights. One of our clients lived in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania and the other client lived in Connecticut. Our clients were first cousins.
We became involved in the lawsuit and confirmed, by reviewing Deeds dating back to the 1800’s that our clients have had an ownership interest in minerals that they did not even know about. We were able to obtain a sizable settlement for our clients by selling their mineral rights to a local company.
Our clients, who are brothers, received a letter from a producer stating that they were the owners of minerals located in Greene County, Pennsylvania. One brother lives in Minnesota and the other lives in California. After an extensive review of the mineral estate, we confirmed that they did, in fact, own minerals that they did not know about. We negotiated a favorable oil and gas lease with a major producer for them under which they both received a sizable advance delay royalty bonus as well as the right to receive production royalties once a well is drilled.
Discovered Leasing Rights
We were contacted by some landowners in Mercer County who questioned whether a rusty, 30 year old well located on the back forty was enough to deny them the right to enter into a new lease and collect a large royalty bonus payment. They contacted us after they received a check in the mail from a company who had purchased the rights to the wells in the area.
We were hired and during our investigation we discovered that the rusty old well was not producing and our clients had not been receiving royalties or delay rentals. After further investigation we deemed the well to be abandoned, but the company who now owned the well had yet to notify the DEP of the well’s inactive status. Instead, the company sent our clients a sizable check, disguised as past due delay rentals, anticipating that they would not question the status of the well. Although initially the check was tempting to cash, it was significantly less than the amount they would receive.
Had our clients cashed those checks, they would have agreed to accept delay rentals and the lease would continue in full force as if nothing had happened. Their opportunity to enter into a new modern term lease with current market bonus payments and royalty percentages would have been lost.
We worked with the DEP to confirm the well status and ultimately they agreed that the well was “abandoned”. This meant that it no longer held our clients’ land hostage under an ancient lease with antiquated provisions.
We negotiated a modern lease with modern terms, including an addendum which protected our clients’ land and water. Inn addition they received large advance bonuses and a much higher production royalty percentage than what was contained in the old lease.
We were successful in this case because we do not hesitate to question the status quo, or just leave things be because “that is the way it always was.” Our persistence convinced the gas company to finally agree that a new lease was required since the old one lapsed when the well holding it was determined to be abandoned.
Never Give Up
We were hired by a group of landowners who felt that they were taken advantage of when they signed a bad lease years ago under dubious circumstances. We sued one of the top producing gas companies in Pennsylvania and Ohio, who was trying to enforce the unfavorable leases in federal court in Pittsburgh.
After many months of federal litigation, we obtained a settlement, which benefitted the landowners immensely. Unfortunately, we are under a Court Order not to talk about the details of the settlement, but we can say that our clients were extremely satisfied with the outcome. And to think that they almost decided not to question the gas company and almost gave up valuable protections to their land and water. Instead, they stood beside us during the fight and never gave up.