New Rough Patch for Norse Energy: Force Majeure Lawsuit

lights out?Is this lights out for Norse Energy in New York State? The company owns leases for some 130,000 acres of land in New York State. All of it is in either the Marcellus or Utica Shale play window with 33,000 acres in the liquids-rich area, according to Norse. Just one problem: New York has not allowed drilling going on five years. That delay caused Norse to file for bankruptcy last December (see Norse Energy Hurt by NY Fracking Delay Files for Bankruptcy).

Norse has tried valiantly to hold on, even through bankruptcy. But now they have a different problem: A group of 89 landowners with a collective 6,314 acres in Broome, Chenango and Madison counties who signed with Norse are suing the company because Norse sent a notice of force majeure. Force majeure means the leases, which otherwise would now be expired (after five years), can be kept in place until New York opens up to allow drilling. The landowners and their lawyer say the moratorium on fracking is not an unforeseen “Act of God” circumstance which would trigger force majeure–Norse says it is. Who’s right?

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