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Solar Farms vs. Oil and Gas Development

Today the Texas Supreme Court denied review of the El Paso Court of Appeals’ opinion in Lyle v. Midway Solar. I discussed the Court of Appeals’ opinion in a prior post. In brief, mineral owners sued a solar farm developer for constructing a solar farm on land under which they owed minerals, complaining that the solar developer had made no accommodation for mineral development. The Court of Appeals held that the mineral owners’ suit was premature because the minerals were unleased and there were no current plans for mineral development. Their suit was dismissed without prejudice.

If the Lyles exercise their right [to use the surface] as part of developing the minerals, Midway must yield to the degree mandated by the application of the accommodation doctrine. But if the Lyles are not exercising their right, there is nothing to be accommodated. Stated otherwise, until the Lyles seek to develop their minerals, Midway owes no duty to the Lyles respecting the surface usage. Were it otherwise a mineral owners who undertakes no efforts to develop the mineral estate could claim damages from any surface activities that might hinder—at some point in the future—the exploration for oil and gas.

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