OH Supreme Court Rules Against Forcing Driller to Explore Utica

What if a landowner leased his or her land decades ago and a driller drilled a conventional natural gas well on the property, and that well has produced commercial volumes of natural gas for years–and still does. And what if the lease gives that driller the right to drill (or not drill) in any given rock lawyer. And what if that driller is content to simply let that conventional well keep producing and not drill further down, into the now commercially viable Utica (or Marcellus) shale layer? Does the landowner, whose land is located where the Utica/Marcellus exists, have any case for taking back the rights to the deeper shale layers the conventional driller refuses to go after? That’s a case that went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court in March of last year (see OH Supreme Court to Hear Appeal re Driller Who Won’t Explore Utica). The Supremes heard oral arguments in the case in September. At that time we said this: “The winds appear to be blowing against the landowner, judging by what the judges said” (see OH Landowner Wants High Court to Force Driller to Explore Shale). Indeed we were right. In a January 3, 2018 decision, the Supremes ruled that Ohio does not recognize an “implied covenant to explore further” in oil and gas leases (full decision below). This is sad news for Ohio landowners who have old wells/leases with a driller who stubbornly won’t explore the Utica, nor allow anyone else to either…

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