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Environment


Ohio Supreme Court hears drilling cases worth tens of millions of dollars
Question is who owns and inherits  the mineral rights and for how long
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


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M.L. Schultze
 
Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor questioned whether Ohio's probate system isn't enough to handle the issue.
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The Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments today (Wednesday)  in two cases that could shift tens of millions of dollars from property owners to drilling companies. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze outlines the legal debate that has sprung for Ohio’s fracking boom.

LISTEN: O'Connor and Hervey on probate's limitations

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Horizontal drilling and fracking have transformed rights that once were worth thousands into millions. A scores of lawsuits have been filed over who owns and inherits the rights to oil, gas and other minerals under a piece of land -- and for how long. Two of those suits made it to the state high court this week in what Justice Paul Pfeiffer describes as the “freight train coming down the tracks” in Ohio. 

The key question centers on a 1989 law called the Dormant Minerals Act. It governs contracts in which landowners lease the mineral rights to others. But as the values of those rights have grown, so have claims by heirs.

Paul Hervey, the lawyer representing drillers, said – barring a clear paper trail – those claims should be uniformly set aside. It’s a claim Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wasn’t buying.

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