Oil in the Family': Obtaining the Requisite Consent to Conduct Operations on Co-owned Land or Mineral Servitudes

Author:Patrick S. Ottinger
Position:Member, Louisiana and Texas Bars
Pages:745-791
 
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“Oil in the Family”: Obtaining the Requisite Consent
to Conduct Operations on Co-owned Land or Mineral
Servitudes
Patrick S. Ottinger
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Introduction ..........................................................................747
II. Rights and Duties of Co-owners Generally .........................749
A. Introduction ....................................................................749
B. Partition Is the Remedy Available to the Unhappy
Co-owner ........................................................................750
C. Jurisprudential Treatment of the Right of a Co-owner
to Grant a Mineral Lease on Its
Undivided Interest in the Co-owned Land .....................752
D. Jurisprudential Treatment of the Right of a
Co-owner to Grant a Mineral Servitude on Its
Undivided Interest in the Co-owned Land .....................761
III. Enter the Louisiana Mineral Code .......................................761
A. Preface ............................................................................761
B. Amendments in 1986 .....................................................763
C. Amendments in 1988 .....................................................763
IV. Creation of a Mineral Servitude by a Co-owner of Land....764
A. Article 164, Louisiana Mineral Code .............................764
B. How It Works .................................................................764
V. Granting of a Mineral Lease by a Co-owner of Land ..........765
A. Article 166, Louisiana Mineral Code .............................765
B. How It Works .................................................................765
Copyright 2013, by PATRICK S. OTTINGER.
Ottinger Heber t, L.L.C., Lafa yette, Louisi ana; Member, Lo uisiana and
Texas Bars; Adjunct Professor of Law, Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State
University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
746 LOUISIANA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 73
VI. Rights of Co-owners of a Mineral Servitude to Operate
on the Land ..........................................................................766
A. Article 175, Louisiana Mineral Code .............................766
B. How It Works .................................................................766
C. A Limited Exception to the Need for a Requisite Level
of Consent ......................................................................766
D. Scenario Within a Scenario ............................................769
E. Jurisprudential Treatment of the Co-owned Servitudes
Created by Partition .......................................................769
VII. Rights of Co-owners of Land to Operate on the Land,
Independent of a Mineral Right ...........................................772
VIII. Form, Duration, and Extent of Consent ..............................773
A. Introduction ....................................................................773
B. Form of Consent ............................................................773
C. Duration of Consent .......................................................777
D. Revocability of Consent .................................................777
E. Transfer of Lease After Obtaining Consent ...................778
F. Mineral Lease Containing a “No Surface Operations”
Clause …………………………………………………779
IX. Doing the Math ....................................................................780
X. The Proviso ..........................................................................782
A. The Legislature Lowers the Threshold but Introduces
a Proviso .........................................................................782
B. Unanswered Questions ...................................................782
C. The “Other” Contract .....................................................784
XI. Rights and Obligations of a Nonconsenting Owner.............784
XII. Application of Consent Requirements to the Conduct of
Seismic Activities on Co-owned Lands or Co-owned Mineral
Servitudes ............................................................................785
XIII. What Is the Worth of a Mineral Right if the Requisite
Consent Cannot be Obtained? ..............................................788
XIV. Conclusion ..........................................................................790
2013] OIL IN THE FAMILY 747
I. INTRODUCTION
This Article examines Louisiana law regulating the circumstances
under which oil and gas activities may be conducted on co-owned
land or on land burdened b y a co-owned mineral servitude.1 Although
this important topic has been considered in other writings,2 a more
current examination is in order because no prior commentary has
considered the significant amendments to the Louisiana Mineral Code
in 1988.
“Ownership of the same thing by two or more persons is
ownership in indivision.”3 Also known as co-ownership, the Civil
Code further provides that “[t]wo or more persons may own the
same thing in indivision, each having an undivided share.”4 A
person owning along with others an undivided interest in the same
thing is called a co-owner or an owner in indivision. For purposes
of ownership, a person must be a natural person or a juridical
person.5
“Tracts of land, with their component parts, are immovables.”6
Hence, land is a corporeal7 thing which is susceptible of being
owned in indivision.
Co-ownership of land might arise in a variety of ways. While
the most typical situation giving rise to co-ownership is that
resulting from a recognized mode of disposition or alienation of
land to two or more persons (such as sale, donation, or exchange),
it might also arise as a consequence of inheritance8 or divorce
1. First recognized by the Louisiana Supreme Court in Frost-Johnson
Lumber Co. v. Salling’s Heirs, 91 So. 207 (La. 1922), a mineral servitude is now
codally defined as “the right of enjoyment of land belonging to another for the
purpose of exploring for and producing minerals and reducing them to
possession and ownership.” L A. REV. STAT. ANN. § 31:21 (2000).
2. J ohn M. Shuey, Some Problems of Co-ownership in Louisiana Mineral
Law, in TWELFTH ANNUAL INSTITUTE ON MINERAL LAW 63 (George W. Hardy,
III ed., 1965); Thomas A. Harrell, Problems Created by Coownership in
Louisiana, in THIRTY-SECOND ANNUAL INS TITUTE ON MINERAL LAW 379
(Patricia A. Geier ed., 1986); Angela Jeanne Crowder, Comment, Mineral
Rights: The Requirement of Consent Among Co-owners, 48 LA. L. REV. 931
(1988).
3. LA. CIV. CODE ANN. art. 797 (2008).
4. Id. art. 480 (2010).
5. Id. art. 479. For the definition of both a natural person and a juridical
person, see id. art. 24 (1999).
6. Id. art. 462 (2010).
7. “Corporeals are things that have a body, whether animate or inanimate,
and can be felt or touched.” Id. art. 461.
8. “When a person, at his decease, leaves several heirs, each of them
becomes an undivided proprietor of the effects of the succession, for the part or

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