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Ohio Supreme Court Addresses Post-Production Costs

In Lutz et al. v. Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., Slip Opinion No. 2016-Ohio-7549, the Ohio Supreme Court declined to answer the certified question submitted by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio as to whether Ohio follows the “at the well rule” or some version of the “marketable product” rule to calculate royalty payments made under an oil and gas lease. The “at the well rule” permits the lessee to deduct post-production costs from royalty payments made to the lessor. Conversely, the “marketable product” rule places limits on the lessee’s ability to deduct post-production costs under certain circumstances. Rather than adopting a blanket rule, the Court stated that the payment of royalties under a lease will be controlled by the specific language in the lease agreement. If an oil and gas lease is silent on the right to deduct post-production costs, it appears unlikely that Ohio courts will allow such deductions. The Court emphasized that leases should be viewed as contracts and the traditional rules for interpreting contractual terms should be used to determine the allocation of post-production costs under an oil and gas lease.