Butler v. Powers

Is Marcellus shale a "mineral"? The Superior Court says ask experts.


The latest case involving Marcellus shale may well have huge reverberations in Pennsylvania. The question is this: is Marcellus shale a mineral or not? In Pennsylvania, many property deeds reserve coal and mineral rights. The question is critical because if it is considered to be a mineral, then the present owners of many properties simply will not own the valuable rights to Marcellus shale because those rights were reserved long ago in the chain of title. That could put a cloud on developing Marcellus shale.

The Superior Court seems to have sensed the seriousness of the issue. In this case, the present owners had a deed in which the mineral rights had been reserved by a prior owner. The Superior Court remanded the case so that the parties could retain experts to assist the trial court on whether Marcellus shale is a mineral or not.

It is interesting that the Court did not decide the issue as a matter of law. For the Superior Court to remand a case to a trial court with a prescription to entertain expert opinion is unusual. Usually declaratory judgments can be resolved on the law alone. That suggests that the Court was aware of the important future implications of this decision.

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Reference Info:Decision | State, 3rd Circuit, Pennsylvania | United States

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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