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Revised SB 576: Yet Another Version of the Co-Tenancy and Lease Integration Bill Introduced in West Virginia

On March 23, 2017, a Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 576 (SB 576) was introduced to the West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee that substantially rewrote the original version of the bill, which addressed the oil and natural gas industry’s effort to efficiently develop production of natural resources. For an analysis of the original version of SB 576, click here.

Among the significant changes in revised SB 576 are the following:

  • The percentage of cotenant mineral ownership interests needed to consent to mineral development is increased from two-thirds to three-fourths.
  • Non-consenting mineral owners are still entitled to production royalties free of post-production expenses, but they are also entitled to a bonus payment calculated as “equal to the average amount paid to such consenting cotenants calculated on net mineral acre basis.”
  • Non-consenting mineral owners may forgo receiving a production royalty payment by electing to obtain a “revenue share” in development, which allows the non-consenting mineral interest holders to essentially obtain a working interest in the production activities on the tract.
  • If any property subject to mineral development under this statute has a non-consenting mineral interest owner, the surface of that property may not be disturbed for that development without the consent of the surface owner, unless such disturbance is permitted through a prior surface use agreement or is otherwise permitted by a “valid contractual arrangement.”
  • “Joint development” is still permitted for multiple contiguous oil and gas leases, but the “operator” must pay surface owners damages available under W. Va. Code §22-6B-3, all damages permissible under common law, and $30,000 for “each well pad constructed by the operator which results in damage to that surface owner’s property.”
  • “In the absence of specific language to the contrary, the royalty for all royalty owners of acreage jointly developed . . . shall not be reduced for post-production expenses incurred by the operator.” This provision, however, is not “intended to impact royalties due for wells drilled prior to the effective date of this chapter.”
  • Consenting cotenants (or the operators) are subject to detailed reporting requirements that includes the amount of oil or natural gas produced and sale information, including price, for that oil and natural gas.
  • Detailed guidelines for the payment of royalties are added, which include a requirement that royalties must be paid once the royalties due exceed $100, payment must be made within 180 days from the date that the sale of mineral is realized, and regardless of the amount of royalty due, payment must be made at least once a year.

Babst Calland will follow SB 576 during West Virginia’s Legislative Session, which is scheduled to end on April 8, 2017.