Changes needed to Virginia’s gas and oil actMy guess is this issue gets bogged down in arcane language and legal precedent and implied consent, and quickly goes beyond my legal training (both graduate level classes in business law). And probably has as much to do with who has the most cash, the best lawyers, and the most pull in Richmond.
Bristol Herald Courier editorial
If state legislators don’t fix the Virginia Gas and Oil Act, here’s what’s going to continue to happen:
Thousands of Southwest Virginia landowners, many of them forced by the state to lease their mineral interests to private companies, will not get paid for what rightfully belongs to them. And the escrow fund that now holds their royalties – currently more than $24 million – will continue to swell to the benefit of no one but the bank that manages it.
For almost 20 years, energy corporations have pocketed enormous profits from natural gas belonging to these mineral owners, some of whom have died without seeing a penny. This is a colossal failure of government to pay people for their property, and it requires immediate action from state lawmakers.
At the heart of the problem is the lingering question of coalbed methane ownership – an issue the 1990 legislature left to the courts to decide. And more than four years ago, the Supreme Court of Virginia did decide – in favor of landowners. The high court ruled landowners were entitled to full rights to the coalbed methane beneath their land, even if their ancestors had sold the coal rights a century ago.
There is a simple fix, recommended by at least one area legislator and the attorney who won the Supreme Court ruling for Buchanan County surface owners: amend the law to reflect the high court’s ruling that if you sold only your coal, you have full rights to coalbed methane royalties. [link]
But right is right. If a person sells the rights to the coal beneath his property to a mining company, it seems only right that the seller would maintain ownership of everything outside of that which is contracted for. Including one's first-born child.
This seems like a no-brainer. What am I missing?