July 2009 Archives

July 31, 2009

The Relinquishment Act - an Interesting Chapter in Texas History

I have recently been reading "The Big Rich: the Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes," by Bryan Burrough. It has reminded me of a fascinating chapter in the history of Texas oil and gas law that arose out of the Texas oil boom in the early years of the 20th century, and that still affects mineral titles to more than 7.4 million acres of land in Texas. It could also be seen as an early example of judicial activism in Texas.

Texas entered the Union retaining all of its public domain - all land not already sold by Spain or Mexico to private citizens. Under Spanish and Mexican laws, when the sovereign sold land it retained all mineral rights under those lands. When Texas became an independent nation, it recognized the titles of landowners who had acquired their lands by Spanish and Mexican grants, including the state's retention of mineral rights under those lands. In its constitution of 1876, Texas set aside more than 42,500,000 acres of unsold land as "public free school land," and provided that the sales of those lands would be set aside in a permanent fund to finance the provision of schools in Texas. That constitution also provided that the State released to the owners of lands previously sold "all mines and mineral substances" under their lands.  This same provision was included as an article in the Revised Statutes of 1895. Thus, Texas decided that, unlike Spain and Mexico, it would not retain title to minerals under lands it sold for settlement and development.

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July 24, 2009

What Landowners Should Know About Groundwater Rights in Texas

Until fairly recently, there has been little governmental regulation of the drilling of and production of groundwater in Texas. Texas historically followed the common-law "rule of capture," which holds that, unless the groundwater rights have been severed from the surface, the surface owner is the owner of all groundwater he/she can produce from a well located on his/her land and has no liability to adjacent owners whose groundwater might be damaged by such production.  But the rule of capture is quickly changing. Groundwater rights are now being placed under the control of Groundwater Conservation Districts, which have authority to regulate the drilling of and production from water wells within their jurisdiction. What follows is a brief summary of what is now happening - the development of a plan to regulate the production of groundwater from all of the major aquifers in Texas.  Landowners should be aware of these happenings.

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July 16, 2009

More News on Promotion of Natural Gas-Powered Vehicles

The NAT Gas Act has been introduced in the U.S. Senate, as S. 1408, sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez, D-NJ, and Orrin Hatch, R-UT. The Act provides incentives for increased use of vehicles powered by natural gas. It was previously introduced in the House as H.R. 1835. The Act increases the tax credit for purchasing natural gas vehicles and provides incentives for installation of natural gas fueling stations.

Freightliner, a large truck maker, announced its first natural gas-powered truck model. The company claims that the truck will save $6,000 per year in fuel and maintenance costs.

Clean Energy Fuels Corporation last week opened what it says is the world's largest natural gas truck fueling station, in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California.

It appears that someone is listening to Boone Pickens.

July 8, 2009

Questar Corp. CEO Keith Rattie on U.S. Energy Policy

On April 2, Keith O. Rattie, CEO of Questar Corporation, gave a speech to students at Utah Valley University about global warming and U.S. energy policy.  The parts of the speech about global warming seek to raise questions about the science behind conclusions of the global warming trend. The most interesting parts of the speech, to me, concern U.S. energy policy.

Points made by Mr. Rattie:

  •   The stated U.S. energy policy goal is for an 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 - "80 by 50." Rattie says that this goal is unattainable. According to him, the U.S. carbon footprint is about 20 tons per person per year. An 80 percent reduction would require that footprint to be reduced to 4 tons per person per year by 2050. But that does not take into account population growth. If projections for population increases in the U.S. are taken into account, 80-by-50 would require that the U.S. reduce its carbon emissions to 2 tons per person per year - a 90 percent reduction in per capita carbon footprint.

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July 3, 2009

Gas Measurement 101

A barrel of oil is a barrel of oil, but how much is an mcf of gas? Herein some basic facts about natural gas composition and measurement.

The first thing to remember: natural gas is measured by volume (cubic feet) but is sold based on its heating content (Btus).

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