Webinar looks at developments with the rule of capture in oil and gas operations

September 11, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — New legal developments affecting the rule of capture — a common law doctrine that establishes nonliability and ownership for captured natural resources, including oil, gas and groundwater — will the subject of a web-based seminar offered by Penn State Extension on Thursday, Sept. 20.

Presenting the webinar will be Ross Pifer, clinical professor of law and director of the Center for Agricultural and Shale Law at Penn State Law. He will discuss the background of the rule of capture, the recent Pennsylvania Superior Court decision in Briggs v. Southwestern Energy Production Co., the status of the Briggs appeal before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and what these legal proceedings could mean for the future of unconventional oil and gas development.

"In recent months, the rule has been under scrutiny by Pennsylvania appellate courts to clarify the extent of its application to hydraulic fracturing and unconventional gas development," Pifer said. "Revisiting how the rule of capture is applied to hydraulic fracturing in the state could have a monumental impact in Pennsylvania and in shale oil and gas development throughout the nation."

A number of questions have been raised by the Superior Court's decision, Pifer pointed out. One such question relates to the court's distinction between hydraulic fracturing and conventional gas drilling, even though all wells in the Commonwealth, both conventional and unconventional, are hydraulically fractured.

Another question relates to the court's imposition of differing standards based upon the permeability of the geologic formation in which oil and gas is extracted, Pifer noted.

"I think this case could have a significant impact on shale development because it's opening the door for trespass liability," said Pifer. "Challengers still would have to prove that a trespass occurred, but the Superior Court has said that it is possible for a company to be held liable for trespass."

The webinar, "Recent Legal Developments Regarding the Rule of Capture," is part of Penn State Extension's Shale Gas Education monthly webinar series. Upcoming webinars include the following:

— Oct 18: "Handling Orphan and Abandoned Wells from a Regulatory and Industry Perspective," presented by Seth Pelepko, manager of the Division of Well Plugging and Subsurface Activities in the Office of Oil and Gas Management, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and Luke Plants, vice president, Plants and Goodwin Inc.

— Nov 15: "Agricultural Production and Shale Gas Development," presented by Gretchen Sneegas, doctoral degree candidate in the Department of Geography, University of Georgia.

— Dec 13: "Unconventional Oil and Gas Bringing Trusted Science to Decision-Making," presented by Donna Vorhees, director of the Energy Research Program for Health Effects Institute.

The webinar is free, but registration is necessary. To register, visit the Penn State Extension Natural Gas Events webpage. More information is available by contacting Carol Loveland at 570-320-4429 or at cal24@psu.edu.

Previous webinars, publications and information also are available on the Penn State Extension natural gas website covering a variety of topics, such as liquid natural gas; seismic testing; methane emissions; water use and quality; the Marcellus and Utica basins; natural gas reserves; gas-leasing considerations for landowners; legal issues surrounding gas development; and the impact of Marcellus gas development on forestland.

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Last Updated September 11, 2018