US Circuit Court: NY Landowners Released from Marcellus Leases

court gavelThe U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, located in New York State, released a decision yesterday in a case known as Beardslee v. Inflection Energy, LLC (copy of the decision is embedded below) that may create problems for future shale drilling in New York State–should the existing statewide ban ever be lifted. Yesterday’s decision is good news for landowners in one sense–it officially upholds the right of Tioga County, NY landowners party to the lawsuit to be released from old leases made in pre-Marcellus days when landowners signed leases for $3 per acre. Those leases were signed before the words “Marcellus” or “Utica” meant anything other than municipalities in New York State. (Interesting factoid: both shale plays are named after the NY towns where they were first identified. Further interesting factoid: both Marcellus, NY and Utica, NY banned fracking before the statewide ban was official.) The Second Circuit upheld a previous decision which we first wrote about in 2012 (see Judge Rules Against Chesapeake, Inflection in NY Lease Case), a decision appealed to NY’s highest court that upheld it (see NY High Court Decision Creates Toxic Environment for O&G Companies). The energy companies then appealed the decision to U.S. District Court, where they have now lost. The ultimate issue at the core of this case is whether or not New York’s government action in disallowing fracking of shale wells should be considered a “force majeure” event that extends a lease beyond the initial term. It is the one issue the none of the courts ever directly answered, including the Second Circuit…

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