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Mineral Estate Conservation Easements Provide Flexibility

by Elizabeth Alford on February 1, 2017

A Stanford professor is touting a new way for private landowners to limit fracking on their land without government regulation.

Related: EPA Releases Fracking Assessment

Rob Jackson, professor of Earth system science at Stanford University, leads a team of legal scholars who have assessed how a conservation easement could enable individual landowners to restrict fracking on their property.

“The mineral estate conservation easement (MECE) is a conservation easement underground that provides landowners with legal flexibility to restrict hydraulic fracturing and other subsurface activities on their land in perpetuity.” 

Landowners could use the MECE to restrict mineral extraction under their property and gives mineral rights owners a new choice for setting aside those rights. The MECE would also allow landowners who own both the aboveground and below ground parts of their land to conserve what’s underneath the property while retaining the right to develop on the surface with houses or other structures.

As concern over fracking has increased, states, local governments and communities have turned to the courts to set regulations over oil and gas activities. The MECE would offer an alternative outside of additional governmental regulations.

One of the legal battles has been who gets to control oil and gas activity. In one famous case from in 2015, the Texas House of Representatives gave its overwhelming approval to preempt city laws concerning oil and gas activity, including hydraulic fracking. The Denton Fracking Bill allows the state to eliminate local rules that are not deemed “commercially reasonable.”

Read the full analysis in the Environmental Law Reporter

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