Pennsylvania Mineral Rights and Surface Rights - A Brief Overview

Energy & Resources|Tax

By Dan Jozwiak

Once a parcel of land is purchased, the surface rights transfer to the purchaser, but what is underneath may surprise you.  In Pennsylvania, among other states where mining and drilling are common, the interest in the surface rights may be severed from the interest in the minerals rights underground, which may include and minerals, ores, oil or gas.  When land is purchased in mineral-rich areas, it is important to determine what rights are being transferred in the transaction.  One can’t assume ownership to both the land surface and what is underneath.  

Pennsylvania passed legislation benefiting owners of surface rights by amending the Dormant Oil and Gas Act of 2006.  The amendment states that a mineral interest is deemed abandoned in the absence of the following for a 20-year period:  A permit to drill an oil or gas well issued by the department as to the interest, actual production or withdrawal of oil or gas from the land, or use of the land in gas storage.  The mineral rights then vest with the surface owner as of the date of the abandonment.  The mineral rights holders, however, are able to continue their claim to rights by providing written notice to the applicable county recorder of deeds if drilling/extracting operations are not conducted. 

One should be aware that owning the land doesn't necessarily mean having rights under the surface.  For more information, contact me, or any member of the Schneider Downs Natural Resources team.

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