NY High Court Decision Creates Toxic Environment for O&G Companies

court gavelA court case decided earlier this week by New York’s Court of Appeals (NY’s highest court), will, in our opinion, have a profoundly negative effect on oil and gas development in the state, forever. Or until another court case overturns it (which seems very unlikely). The case, as its core, is about the question of whether or not state action or inaction constitutes an extraordinary action, in essence an Act of God outside of the control of parties who sign a contract. Years ago landowners signed leases to allow oil and gas drilling, often for a few bucks and acre, long before Marcellus and fracking were common, household words. Then came delay after delay in New York–from the governor–and eventually a more or less semi-permanent ban on fracking. Energy companies argued that the leases they had signed could be extended until the day they are allowed to drill in the Marcellus because of “force majeure”–the concept that due to circumstances beyond our control we could not drill as we intended during the original term of the lease, usually five years. The NY Court of Appeals on Tuesday decided that the state preventing drilling does not qualify as force majeure after the original five-year period of a lease (full copy of the decision below). If the original lease was extended for some reason and then the driller was prevented from drilling during the extended time due to state laws preventing it, it’s not force majeure in the eyes of the “wise” justices in Albany…

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