On May 14, 2014, Judge Watson of the District Court for the Southern District of Ohio certified the following questions to the Ohio Supreme Court seeking guidance on the application of the 1989 and 2006 versions of the Ohio Dormant Mineral Act (ODMA):
- Does the 2006 version of the 1989 version of the ODMA apply to claims asserted after 2006 alleging that the rights to oil, gas and other minerals automatically vested in the surface land holder prior to the 2006 amendments as a result of abandonment?
- Is the payment of a delay rental during the primary term of an oil and gas lease a title transaction and “savings event” under the ODMA?
See Corban v. Chesapeake Exploration, L.L.C. et al., Case No 2:13-cv-246, Opinion and Order, p. 20. The Ohio Supreme Court has assigned case number 2014-0804 to this matter. Earlier, the District Court certified two additional questions to the Ohio Supreme Court in Chesapeake Exploration v. Buell, Case No. 2:12-cv-916 (Opinion and Order, 1/02/14):
- Is the recorded lease of a severed subsurface mineral estate a title transaction under the ODMA, Ohio Revised Code § 5301.56(B)(3)(a)?
- 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?
While the Ohio Supreme Court has not acted on Judge Watson’s certification of questions in Corban, by its decision entered on March 26, 2014, it accepted the questions certified in Chesapeake Exploration v. Buell. (Case No. 2014-0067). This may indicate its willingness to accept the additional questions certified in Corban.
The ongoing confusion among Ohio trial courts regarding the interaction of the original 1989 DMA and the 2006 amendment that initiated procedural steps that an owner of surface rights must follow in order to effect abandonment of severed or reserved mineral rights will hopefully be reduced by the Ohio Supreme Court’s guidance on these issues.