Oil and Gas Blog

Oil and gas development in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, the Marcellus Play, Utica play, or anywhere can present unique and complex issues that can be intimidating and challenging. It can produce lawsuits, litigation, negotiations and dispute resolution procedures. At Pennsylvania based Houston Harbaugh, P.C., our Oil and Gas Practice is dedicated to protecting the interests of landowners and royalty owners. From new lease negotiations to title disputes, to royalty litigation, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia – Marcellus shale play, Utica shale play and elsewhere – we can help. Whether you have two acres in Washington County or 5,000 acres in Lycoming County, our dedication and commitment remains the same.

Houston Harbaugh, P.c Files “amicus Curiae Brief’ On Behalf Of The Pennsylvania Chapter Of The National Association Of Royalty Owners In Briggs, Et Al V. Southwestern Energy (63 Map 2018)

Robert J. Burnett is a director and chair of Houston Harbaugh’s Oil and Gas practice. To learn more about our work with landowners and royalty owners, visit our Oil and Gas Law practice page.

In a landmark decision on April 2, 2018, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the “Rule of Capture” does not apply to frac fissures that extend under unleased parcels. This decision clarified an important aspect of Pennsylvania oil and gas law: a driller cannot remove hydrocarbons from the shale formations beneath your property unless you have signed a valid oil and gas lease. In Briggs v. Southwestern Energy Production Company, the Pennsylvania Superior Court concluded that:

“In light of the distinctions between hydraulic fracturing and conventional gas drilling, we conclude that the rule of capture does not preclude liability for trespass due to hydraulic fracturing. Therefore hydraulic fracturing may constitute an actionable trespass where subsurface fractures, fracturing fluid and proppant cross boundary lines and extend into the subsurface estate of an adjoining property for which the operator does hot have a mineral lease, resulting in the extraction ‘Of natural gas from beneath the adjoin landowner’s property·”

Following that decision, Southwestern Energy Production Company (“SWN”) sought permission to file an appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. On November 20, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to hear SWN’s appeal. Given the importance of this issue, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Association of Royalty Owners (“PA NARO”) engaged Robert J. Burnett of Houston Harbaugh to prepare and file a “friend of the court” brief in support of the Superior Court’s opinion. A copy of the amicus curiae brief filed by Houston Harbaugh can be found here.

About Us

Oil and gas development can present unique and complex issues that can be intimidating and challenging. At Houston Harbaugh, P.C., our oil and gas practice is dedicated to protecting the interests of landowners and royalty owners. From new lease negotiations to title disputes to royalty litigation, we can help. Whether you have two acres in Washington County or 5,000 acres in Lycoming County, our dedication and commitment remains the same.

We Represent Landowners in All Aspects of Oil and Gas Law

The oil and gas attorneys at Houston Harbaugh have broad experience in a wide array of oil and gas matters, and they have made it their mission to protect and preserve the landowner’s interests in matters that include:

  • New lease negotiations
  • Pipeline right-of-way negotiations
  • Surface access agreements
  • Royalty audits
  • Tax and estate planning
  • Lease expiration claims
  • Curative title litigation
  • Water contamination claims
Pittsburgh Oil and Gas Lawyer Robert Burnett attorney headshot

Robert Burnett

Robert’s practice is exclusively devoted to the representation of landowners and royalty owners in oil and gas matters. Robert is the Chair of the Houston Harbaugh’s Oil & Gas Practice Group and represents landowners and royalty owners in a wide array of oil and gas matters throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Robert assists landowners and royalty owners in the negotiation of new oil and gas leases as well as modifications to existing leases. Robert also negotiates surface use agreements and pipeline right-of-way agreements on behalf of landowners. Robert also advises and counsels clients on complex lease development and expiration issues, including the impact and effect of delay rental and shut-in clauses, as well as the implied covenants to develop and market oil and gas. Robert also represents landowners and royalty owners in disputes arising out of the calculation of production royalties and the deduction of post-production costs. Robert also assists landowners with oil and gas title issues and develops strategies to resolve and cure such title deficiencies. Robert also advises clients on the interplay between oil and gas leases and solar leases and assists clients throughout Pennsylvania in negotiating solar leases.

Head shot photo of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Lawyer Brendan O'Donnell at Houston Harbaugh

Brendan A. O'Donnell

Brendan O’Donnell is a highly qualified and experienced attorney in the Oil and Gas Law practice. He also practices in our Environmental and Energy Practice. Brendan represents landowners and royalty owners in a wide variety of matters, including litigation and trial work, and in the preparation and negotiation of:

  • Leases
  • Pipeline right of way agreements
  • Surface use agreements
  • Oil, gas and mineral conveyances