What might my community experience?

To identify the owners of the mineral rights in your community, third party contractors will conduct extensive research at the local office of deeds and records, often resulting in a noticeable increase in activity and demands on that office. 

As in the previous stage, there can be a number of different industry representatives operating in your area. In addition to the oil and gas companies and their contractors, there are agents, often known as landmen, who negotiate mineral leases with property owners. They might work on behalf of a particular company or work independently as a speculator to put together acreage that they can later resell to oil and gas operators. 

For local property owners who hold the mineral rights to their land (see Box 2), landmen may approach them to lease the mineral rights. These owners can negotiate leasing terms and additional agreements for use of their surface property to access the minerals. Depending on the stage at which mineral owners are contacted, the price offered per acre can vary significantly.

For surface owners who do not own the mineral rights, some states require companies to make a good faith effort to negotiate surface use agreements with them. Some companies will negotiate such agreements even in the absence of a requirement. 

There are 58 million acres of land nationwide where the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) owns the mineral rights, but private citizens own the surface property. 1 The agency has established standards and guidelines for interacting with landowners that oil and gas operators must follow (“the Gold Book”). According to these guidelines, the operator must make a good faith effort to come to an agreement with the surface owner regarding access to the lands. If these efforts should fail, then the operator is required to post a bond for any damages or losses incurred by the surface owner. 2

Notes:

  1. Bureau of Land Management, “Split Estate:  Rights, Responsibilities, and Opportunities” (2007), agency brochure. 
  2. API recommends that operators consult the Gold Book for guidance and best practices on communication and addressing the concerns of surface owners. American Petroleum Institute, “Environmental Protection for Onshore Oil and Gas Production Operations and Leases,” API Recommended Practice 51R (July 2009), 6.