OH Court Rules on ‘Paying Quantities’ Affecting Lease Termination

A recent ruling from Ohio’s Seventh District Court of Appeals has the potential to affect conventional and unconventional (shale) leases. As with most legal rulings, this one is a bit complex. We’ll do our best to summarize. In Ohio, most oil and gas leases have both a primary term and a secondary term. The primary term is that period of time a driller has to locate and drill for oil or gas–typically five years. The secondary term is that period of time (which can last for decades) under which oil and gas is produced from the well. In most lease contracts, as long as the well is producing in “paying quantities” the lease remains in effect. But when the well does not produce in paying quantities, the lease is terminated and the landowner can seek a new lease. Of course, the definition of “paying quantities” is key. In a previous case, the Ohio Supreme Court defined paying quantities. However, the recent Seventh District Court case, Paulus v. Beck Energy Corp., added to, or should we say “refined” the definition provided by the Supreme Court by providing guidance on what items may be considered when determining paying quantities and lack of production in Ohio…
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Court Tells Munroe Falls to Reimburse Beck Energy $45K Legal Fees

In June 2016, MDN shared with you the news that Munroe Falls (Summit County), OH had filed yet another frivolous lawsuit against Beck Energy to prevent drilling–after already losing a similar case before the Ohio Supreme Court (see Munroe Falls Won’t Let it Go: Files New Lawsuit Against Beck Energy). MDN received a statement from Beck Energy’s lawyer which said, among other things: “…the complaint the City of Munroe Falls recently filed lacks any good faith basis under existing law, and it is clear Munroe Falls’ intention in filing this complaint is to harass and maliciously injure Beck Energy” (see Beck Energy Lawyer Responds to Frivilous Munroe Falls Zoning Case). Munroe Falls’ harrasment of Beck Energy has been going on for years (see our list of stories here). Beck counter sued Munroe Falls and asked for unspecified damages–meaning the potential for the city to be bankrupted by a big judgment (a very real possibility). Beck later backed away from the ledge and dropped some of the counterclaims against Munroe Falls. After all, Beck doesn’t want to bankrupt the good people of Munroe Falls over the illicit actions of its leaders. The final verdict is now in. On July 13, the Summit County Court of Common Pleas awarded Beck Energy $45,000 in attorney’s fees against Munroe Falls for having to defend against a frivolous lawsuit brought by the city. So now the taxpayers of Munroe Falls will have to pony up for the actions of their “leaders”…
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Beck Energy Still Fighting Munroe Falls, Years Later

Last June MDN shared with you the news that Munroe Falls (Summit County), OH had filed yet another frivolous lawsuit against Beck Energy to prevent drilling–after already losing a similar case before the Ohio Supreme Court (see Munroe Falls Won’t Let it Go: Files New Lawsuit Against Beck Energy). MDN received a statement from Beck Energy’s lawyer which said, among other things: “…the complaint the City of Munroe Falls recently filed lacks any good faith basis under existing law, and it is clear Munroe Falls’ intention in filing this complaint is to harass and maliciously injure Beck Energy” (see Beck Energy Lawyer Responds to Frivilous Munroe Falls Zoning Case). Munroe Falls’ harrasment of Beck Energy has been going on for years (see our list of stories here). Beck counter sued Munroe Falls in this latest case and asked for unspecified damages–meaning the potential for the city to be bankrupted by a big judgment (a very real possibility). Beck has now backed away from the ledge and has dropped some of the counterclaims against Munroe Falls. After all, Beck doesn’t want to bankrupt the good people of Munroe Falls over the illicit actions of its leaders. But there is still “legal wrangling” going on in an effort to end Munroe Falls’ harassment of Beck. Here’s the latest…
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Beck Energy Seeks to Lease Middle School Property in Munroe Falls

Over the past four years MDN has monitored and reported on conventional driller Beck Energy and their ongoing difficulties with attempting to drill in Munroe Falls (Summit County), OH. You can see our list of stories stretching back to February 2013 here. In a nutshell, Munroe Falls has attempted to use “home rule” (i.e. their own oil and gas regulations) to stop Beck cold from doing any drilling within the municipality. When doctored zoning regs didn’t work, Munroe Falls embarked on a course of filing frivolous lawsuit after frivolous lawsuit. The latest one failed (see Summit County Judge Blocks Munroe Falls’ Attempt to Stop Drilling). So imagine our delight, and the recalcitrant Munroe Falls leaders’ horror, to learn that Beck Energy now wants to drill a new conventional well–and they need a few acres from the neighboring Kimpton Middle School to do it!…
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Summit County Judge Blocks Munroe Falls’ Attempt to Stop Drilling

Gavel-falling.jpgEarlier this month MDN shared with you the news that Munroe Falls (Summit County), OH had filed yet another frivolous lawsuit against Beck Energy to prevent drilling–after already losing a similar case before the Ohio Supreme Court (see Munroe Falls Won’t Let it Go: Files New Lawsuit Against Beck Energy). Beck Energy’s lawyers fought this new challenge (see Beck Energy Lawyer Responds to Frivilous Munroe Falls Zoning Case). We have some good news. A Summit County judge has blocked Monroe Falls’ motion for a temporary restraining order to stop Beck from drilling a new well. Let the drilling begin! A final decision on Munroe Falls’ latest frivolous lawsuit is still pending. The judge is considering Beck’s motion to grant summary judgment in its favor. How much longer will the residents of Munroe Falls tolerate their “leaders” blowing taxpayer’s money on frivolous lawsuits?…
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Beck Energy Lawyer Responds to Frivilous Munroe Falls Zoning Case

Beck EnergyEarlier this month MDN shared with you the news that Munroe Falls (Summit County), OH had filed yet another frivolous lawsuit against Beck Energy to prevent drilling–after already losing a similar case before the Ohio Supreme Court (see Munroe Falls Won’t Let it Go: Files New Lawsuit Against Beck Energy). MDN received a statement from Beck Energy’s lawyer which says, among other things: “the complaint the City of Munroe Falls recently filed lacks any good faith basis under existing law, and it is clear Munroe Falls’ intention in filing this complaint is to harass and maliciously injure Beck Energy.” Fighting words! Sounds like the taxpayers of Munroe Falls should get ready to open their pocketbooks to pay into a settlement with Beck after Beck wins again. Our question: When will Munroe Falls voters get rid of the obstinate jerks running the place? Here’s the statement from Beck’s lawyer…
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Munroe Falls Won’t Let it Go: Files New Lawsuit Against Beck Energy

Frozen - Let it Go“Unbelievably dense” is how we would describe the “leaders” of Munroe Falls, Ohio. Going back to 2012, Monroe Falls–a “city” with a population of 5,000–has been attempting to stop legally permitted wells from being drilled on private property within city limits. Munroe Falls ordered Beck Energy to cease and desist drilling activity claiming the driller had not secured permits from the city first (Mother May I?). The object was to never let Beck drill, to deny them the permits they would need to seek, so Beck took them to court and an Ohio appeals court struck down Munroe Falls’ “home rule” zoning ordinances as illegal (see OH Appeals Court Strikes Down Home Rule for Drilling). The case was appealed to the OH Supreme Court and the supremes ruled in favor of Beck Energy (see OH Supreme Court Strikes Down Home Rule in Gas Drilling Case). For normal people that would be the end of it. However, it was a close decision (4-3) and the supremes left lots of wiggle room from municipalities to continue making life miserable for drillers (see Some Options Still Available After OH Court Strikes Down Home Rule). So even though Munroe Falls went all the way to the top and lost–once again they’ve just filed another zoning lawsuit against Beck Energy. Do they never learn?…
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OH Supreme Court Upholds Victory for Beck Energy in Lease Case

A major victory for oil and gas drillers in Ohio was just handed down by the Ohio Supreme Court. You may recall MDN brought you the news in October 2014 that the Seventh District Court of Appeals in Ohio overturned a lower court ruling in the case of Hupp v. Beck Energy Corp (see Major OH Court Victory for Beck Energy & XTO in Lease Case). Brief background: three landowners filed suit claiming that their leases with Beck Energy Corp. were void and should be terminated because Beck never drilled wells on their property and that a provision allowing Beck to pay a nominal delay fee was against public policy. The lower court agreed and granted summary judgment. The court then granted class certification to the lawsuit brought by the three landowners–meaning between 600-700 landowners would also be able to invalidate their leases. On appeal to the Seventh District Court, the case was overturned and decided in favor of Beck Energy (and XTO Energy who had purchased the leases from Beck). It was appealed again, to the OH Supreme Court, and the high court has sided with Beck/XTO…
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The Unsettled Issue of Home Rule in Ohio

A law professor from Cleveland State University, writing a guest viewpoint in Crain’s Cleveland Business, does an excellent job in outlining the precarious and unsettled issue of so-called home rule in Ohio with respect to the right of local municipalities in layering on their own zoning regulations that control oil and gas drilling. In early 2015 the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Munroe Falls could not add to or otherwise layer on their zoning regs that interfere with state regulations that govern oil and gas drilling (see OH Supreme Court Strikes Down Home Rule in Gas Drilling Case). As we later wrote, Beck Energy, the driller in the case, asked the Supreme Court to essentially strike down Munroe Falls’ entire zoning scheme as being unconstitutional. In November the Supremes declined to do that, leaving everyone scratching their collective heads (see OH Supreme Court Sends Mixed Signal on “Home Rule” Issue). Law prof Heidi Gorovitz Robertson takes it from there…
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Munroe Falls, OH Repeals “Home Rule” O&G Regulations

In March 2011 Beck Energy drove a bulldozer onto private property in Munroe Falls (Summit County), OH with the intent of building a road to a drill pad where Beck had proper permits and permission from the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR) to drill a well. Munroe Falls slapped Beck with a stop work order and said, in essence, “Uh uh uh, you need to jump through our municipal ‘Mother May I?’ hoops and get our permission for everything you do before you can proceed.” Beck pushed back and sued Munroe Falls and the case was appealed, eventually, all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court. In February of this year, the Ohio Supremes ruled that Munroe Falls cannot impose so-called “home rule” laws over top of the ODNR’s rules with respect to oil and gas drilling (see OH Supreme Court Strikes Down Home Rule in Gas Drilling Case). Last week Munroe Falls finally repealed their onerous oil and gas regulations, a fitting end to this years-long story…
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OH Supreme Court Strikes Down Home Rule in Gas Drilling Case

court gavelCases before the high courts of both New York and Pennsylvania in the past year have ruled that local municipalities can control oil and gas drilling within their borders–so-called “home rule” statutes. In the case of NY the high court went berserk and said towns can actually ban such drilling, which of course strips away private property rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. In PA it was a little better, but not much. PA’s high court gutted provisions in the state’s Act 13 law making for a crazy-quilt patchwork of local zoning regulations that PA’s drillers must now navigate through. One state’s high court, however, has gotten it right. Yesterday the Ohio Supreme Court issued its long awaited ruling in the Munroe Falls v Beck Energy case (for background, see Beck Energy & Munroe Falls Go to Court – Again). In a 4-3 ruling, the OH Supremes said the City of Munroe Falls cannot stop Beck Energy from drilling a well that was properly permitted by the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR)…
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Beck Energy & Munroe Falls Go to Court – Again

Munroe Falls, a “city” with 5,000 people located near Akron, OH (in Summit County) has a longstanding feud (and court case) with Beck Energy over Beck’s right to drill a shale well on private property within city limits. The drill site was evaluated and properly permitted by the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR) in 2012, but as soon as Beck started drilling, the city slapped them with a stop work notice for violating local zoning ordinances. That set off a court battle over “home rule” and the rights local municipalities have over oil and gas activity. An Ohio Appeals Court eventually stuck down home rule (see OH Appeals Court Strikes Down Home Rule for Drilling). The case was appealed and is now before the OH Supreme Court, awaiting a decision (see Home Rule Case Heads to Ohio Supreme Court). A new/second case was filed earlier this week by Beck Energy against the city of Munroe Falls. It seems about three barrels of oil were spilled at the site and the city is (unbelievably) preventing Beck from cleaning it up…
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Major OH Court Victory for Beck Energy & XTO in Lease Case

A court case with big implications for all Ohio landowners–and drillers–was decided in March 2013. In Hupp v. Beck Energy Corp, three landowners filed suit claiming that their leases with Beck Energy Corp. were void and should be terminated because Beck never drilled wells on their property and that a provision allowing Beck to pay a nominal delay fee was against public policy. The court agreed and granted summary judgment (see OH Lawsuit Victory: 600-700 Landowners Can Terminate Beck, XTO Leases). Beck had sold the leases–in Monroe and Belmont counties–to XTO Energy, so XTO got involved in the lawsuit too. The court then granted class certification to the lawsuit brought by the three landowners–meaning between 600-700 landowners would also be able to invalidate their leases. A few weeks later both Beck and XTO filed an appeal (see XTO, Beck Energy Appeal OH Case Allowing Lease Termination). On appeal, this week the Seventh District Court of Appeals in Ohio overturned the lower court ruling and ruled in favor of Beck and XTO–a major victory for Ohio’s drillers and a major defeat for the landowners who say their land never got drilled and they wanted to re-sign with different company…
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Beck Energy Sues OH Attorneys for Lease “Interference”

An interesting court case that landowners in Monroe County, OH with old (30 year-old) non-Utica gas leases will be interested in following. Beck Energy holds many of those old leases (originally signed for an average $50/acre) which allows them to drill vertically into the Clinton sandstone for natural gas. However, the old leases prevent landowners from signing new leases (at much higher signing bonuses) to allow Utica Shale drilling. Apparently some enterprising attorneys have taken up the cause by shopping (i.e. advertising) for plaintiffs and Beck is none to happy about it. Beck has filed a lawsuit against the attorneys and their law firms to stop them from making mischief with “their” leases.

After reading the details of whose done what to whom (below), it seems to MDN no one will come out of this one smelling clean…
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XTO, Beck Energy Appeal OH Case Allowing Lease Termination

Earlier this week MDN told you about 600-700 landowners in Ohio who won a lawsuit allowing them to terminate leases held with Beck Energy and XTO Energy (see OH Lawsuit Victory: 600-700 Landowners Can Terminate Beck, XTO Leases).

Beck and XTO are none too happy with the decision and have appealed it to the Ohio Court of Appeals:

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OH Lawsuit Victory: 600-700 Landowners Can Terminate Beck, XTO Leases

A court case recently-decided could have big implications for landowners in Ohio. The case means that some 600-700 landowners with signed leases with Beck Energy Corp. and XTO Energy in Monroe and Belmont counties may be able to join a class action to have their leases terminated, allowing them to re-sign with a different company.

The details, as provided by law firm Jackson Kelly:

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