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Mineral and Gas Exploration: Conservation at Risk?

Landowners are seeking land trust permission to extract gas after conservation.  What should be done?

With petroleum prices over $115 a barrel of oil and gas prices per gallon approaching $4, it is no surprise that gas exploration and extraction has increased.  Beds of coal and shale methane, previously not worthwhile to extract, are now economically feasible and profitable.  This means a new wave of reviving older unused leases and mineral rights as well as prospecting for new leases in areas thought never to be explored.

The implications for conservation are obvious.  Pre-existing severed mineral rights are not being tapped.  If not extinguished or minimized during the process of conservation, those rights can be exercised despite the conservation easement.  The result may be to serioulsy impair conservation values.

Landowners are also seeking land trust permission to extract gas under new leases after conservation.  In many states, pooling arrangements allow the extraction of gas from large underground resevoirs without any drilling at all on conserved land.  In some cases, it may be possible to remove the gas without any survace adverse effects at all, but it depends on the geology of the area.

What should land trusts do in these cases? This is an area the Alliance is tracking and working on guidance. The articles below are some reference resources, with more information to follow as we develop tools in this area.

Please contact Leslie Ratley-Beach with any questions at lrbeach@lta.org.

Reference resources:

Drilling Down: Protecting Western Communities from the Health and Environmental Effects of Oil and Gas Production
NRDC | October 2007

There's Gas in Those Hills
By Clifford Krauss
New York Times | April 2008

Mineral Rights and Land Conservation in the Midwest
By Scott Howard and Matt McDonough
March 2008

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