Oil and Gas Development in West Virginia Involving Unknown or Unleased Parties

Institute for Energy Law Oil & Gas E-Report

(by Joshua F. Hall, Nikolas Tysiak and Jason Zoeller)

West Virginia law presents unique challenges regarding jointly owned property in situations where a minority owner cannot be identified, is not available or refuses to join in the leasing of oil and gas. It is not uncommon for oil and gas rights in West Virginia to be owned by members of the same family for several generations, and the result is that an operator may need to approach multiple parties to lease a single parcel. Historically, West Virginia law has placed strict requirements on a lessee in leasing cotenants and required the consent of all parties before oil and gas operations could commence. However, when leasing all cotenants in an oil and gas property is not feasible, there are several statutory options available in West Virginia that may provide relief to an operator, including a new Cotenancy Modernization and Majority Protection Act that was passed this year.

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