Posted 02-10-2005 at 04:05:59
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Anyone see Dan Blather's TV documentary last night? It reminded me of a discussion here a few weeks back- about how far above and below your land do you "own". In Wyoming the answer is "not very far" (don't know if it's the same in other states). They showed ranchers who were intruded upon by oil companies that came on their land to drill for natural gas. It was clearly said that the oil and gas does NOT belong to the land owner and the owner can NOT keep them from coming and drilling. In the process they pump water (a scarce commodity in Wyoming) around the clock not caring what it does to the owner's supply.
If this is the case Jed Clampett "shooting at some food and up from the ground came bubbling crude" would not have gone to Beverly Hills- it would belong to someone else. But, I had to think, if this happened on land belonging to a big politician/lawyer he'd own it free and clear. What's this country coming to?
Posted 02-10-2005 at 06:37:49
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Unless "parts" of the ownership are sold to someone else, according to Sir William Blackstone, (who wrote the definitive treatise on the state of the English common law in 1767) to whomsoever the soil belongs, he also owns the sky to the depths" The English common law, is the basic law from which the law in all the states but La has been derived. Obviously some changes have been made by stautes and judicial decisions over the years. For instance, in modern times, the landowner no longer owns to the heavens, such that he can exclude aircraft from flying over his property.
In merry old England it was possible to own less than complete ownership, referred to as fee simple. One can own a life estate, meaning he owns til he dies and thereafter it belongs to someone else. Then there is a life estate for the life of another, or a contingent remainder. For instance, the property belongs to Larry until he dies, and then to his brother George, provided that George has a son by the date of Larry's death. In old England there was an archaic right of estover in some deeds, meaning the gtrantor reserved the right forever to collect firewood from the property he sold. There are occaisionally reasons for deeding property in this manner. Basically, the ownership is parceled out in pieces of the whole. This same concept applies to oil, gas and mineral rights, and even water rights. Most of us are familiar with the conept of having an easement across property to use a driveway.
Along the way, our system of land ownership has also come to recognize that there can be property interests in oil, coal, gas etc. beneath the soil. Now, the resolution of the conflicts between the owner of the minerals and the owner of the surface has been resolved in different ways from state to state. In some cases, the mineral rights were sold from the rest of the property and in others, the surface rights were sold off from the "whole" of the property.
Yes, it seems like a horrible injustice in some cases, but the rancher bought the property with all these things being recorded at the Courthouse. When he bought it, he should have realized that this could happen. Kind of like buying a property subject to an easement for another neighboring landowner to cross over to his property and then complaining when he does so.
The ironic thing about many of these sensational stories, is that the rancher often doesn't own the whole of the property, and neither does the mining or drilling company. In many cases, the rights were sold off in the thirties, dirt cheap, so farmers and ranchers could hang on during the depression and now it is coming home to roost.