Brendan A. O'Donnell

Director
Oil & Gas Law
Environmental & Energy Law

412.288.2226

Practice Areas

Oil and Gas Law • Litigation • Environmental and Energy Law • Business/Commercial Litigation • Environmental and Complex Torts Coverage • Enforcement • Hazardous Material Contamination • Real Estate Transactions • Superfund Matters • Oil and Gas Royalty Disputes • New Lease Negotiations • Pipeline Right-of-Way Negotiations • Surface Access Agreements • Royalty Audits • Tax and Estate Planning • Lease Expiration Claims • Curative Title Litigation
Head shot photo of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Lawyer Brendan O'Donnell at Houston Harbaugh

Overview

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Lawyer

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Lawyer | Landowners | Marcellus | Royalties & Leases | Litigation | Attorneys. 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

Brendan also has experience with the evaluation of deeds for oil and gas ownership, analyzing royalty payments and preparing documents to cure title deficiencies.

Along with his representation of private landowners, Brendan has counseled municipal and school officials regarding a broad spectrum of oil and gas related issues that include leasing, surface disturbance, zoning and land use.

Complementing his oil and gas transactional work, Brendan has actively represented clients in oil and gas related litigation matters before trial and appellate courts in Pennsylvania in proceedings that involve Actions to Quiet Title, Declaratory Judgment Actions, Breach of Contract claims, and other suits involving trespass, conversion and property damage. Brendan also has experience representing and appearing before municipal bodies, such as Zoning Hearing Boards and Boards of Supervisors. Brendan also advises clients on the interplay between oil and gas leases and solar leases and assists clients throughout Pennsylvania in negotiating solar leases.

Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Law

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has observed that “[t]he traditional oil and gas ‘lease’ is far from the simplest of property concepts.”  Brown v. Haight, 255 A.2d 508, 510 (Pa. 1969).  In 2012, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court confirmed that when an oil and gas lease is executed, “the title conveyed in an oil and gas lease is inchoate, and is initially for the purpose of exploration and development.”  T.W. Phillips Gas and Oil Co. v. Jedlicka, 42 A3d 261, 267 (Pa. 2012).

As an “inchoate” interest, the initial rights granted to the gas company in a lease are incomplete. If oil and gas development during the initial term granted by the lease is unsuccessful, then the gas company has no further rights, the “inchoate” interest ends, and the lease terminates.  Id.

But, if oil and gas development is successful during the initial term granted by the lease, then the “inchoate” interest transforms into a “fee simple determinable” interest.  Phillips Gas v. Jedlicka, 42 A.3d at 267.  That is a type of “ownership” that automatically terminates upon the occurrence of a specific event.  Id.   That “specific event” is identified in the lease, and is usually the cessation of oil and gas production in paying quantities.  When the lease ends, all rights that were granted in the lease “revert” back to the original lessor, or the lessor’s heirs and successors.  Id.

As a result, the grant of an oil and gas lease can function as a transfer of oil and gas ownership from the lessor to the lessee gas company.  If the oil and gas company satisfies the lease requirements, it can potentially hold the lease for decades; there is no fixed end-point for most oil and gas leases.  In that way, the oil and gas lease almost functions as a sale of the oil and gas, with the lessor (and its heirs & successors) only having the right to receive a royalty from production and the right to the leased oil and gas when the oil and gas lease is over.

But, the oil and gas lease also functions like a contract.  It is governed by principles of contract law.  Phillips Gas v. Jedlicka, 42 A.3d at 267.  There are many duties and obligations in oil and gas leases that can be breached, like in any contract.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Lawyer | Landowners | Marcellus | Royalties & Leases | Litigation | Attorneys 

 

Experience

Education & Credentials

Education

  • University of Pittsburgh, J.D. Cum Laude, Order of the Coif, Dean’s Scholarship, Senior Business Manager – Law Review
  • University of Pittsburgh, B.A. Magna Cum Laude

Bar Admissions

  • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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