The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments on August 20 in Chesapeake Exploration Company v. Buell, Case No. 2014-0067. That case originated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (Case No. 2:12-cv-00916). District Judge Michael Watson certified two questions in this case:

  1. Is the recorded lease of a severed subsurface mineral estate a title transaction under the Ohio Dormant Mineral Act (ODMA), Ohio Revised Code 5301.56(B)(3)(a)?
  2. Is the expiration of a recorded lease and the reversion of the rights granted under that lease a title transaction that restarts the twenty-year forfeiture clock under the ODMA at the time of the reversion?

Merit Briefs have been submitted by the Petitioner (oil and gas lessees) and Respondent (surface owners), as well as amici curiae Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) (in support of Petitioner) and State of Ohio (in support of Respondents)—the State noting that it is the owner of substantial acreage as to which the ownership of underlying mineral rights has reverted under the Dormant Mineral Act.

The parties have sought to place in issue the question whether an oil and gas lease creates a fee simple determinable or a mere license to explore for and produce oil and gas. OOGA has taken the position that the Court need not reach that issue to determine that an oil and gas lease creates some kind of real estate property interest sufficient to qualify as a title transaction under ODMA. In any event, the Court will be considering the first of several likely cases seeking clarification of important issues under the original Dormant Mineral Act and the 2006 amendment.