For the last few years, Romanian landowners have unjustly prevented titleholders from conducting petroleum operations on blocks and land, claiming that the easement rights granted to titleholders under the Petroleum Law represent expropriation. The landowners’ denial of access has mostly related to shale gas exploitation and is based on landowners’ insufficient understanding of the process. Instead of simply terminating their petroleum agreements with the landowners, some petroleum companies chose to fight for their rights in court, as a last resort to finding a solution without abandoning their projects.

Although previously it was almost impossible for titleholders to access the gas without an agreement from the landowner, Romanian courts have begun ruling in favour of titleholders with concession agreements. Recently, the Timis Court ruled that, far from being an expropriation, the legal easement right established by the Petroleum Law, represents a legal limitation of the landowners’ property rights and is in line with the Romanian Constitution and with Additional Protocol no. 1 of the ECHR.

According to the Timis Court, the state may limit landowners’ property rights in order to establish legal norms for using an asset of public interest, so long as the substance of the right is not affected. Although the right to property is granted by the Constitution, its content and limits are established by law, as the right of the state to exploit the natural resources is its exclusive prerogative

Rulings like the one in Timis represent a first line confirmation of titleholders’ rights, however a long awaited legislative amendment remains necessary in order to clarify titleholders’ rights in light of the national interest associated with the exploitation of natural resources.

The Bucharest Energy team is working closely with the industry’s representatives in what is to be expected one of the major reformations of the primary oil & gas legislative framework.