10/26/2011 03:18:00 PM EST
Steptoe & Johnson: Mineral Interests vs. Wind Farm Conflict
In a time of ever-expanding forms of sustainable energy, one type of energy development can often conflict with another. A mineral owner has asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma to determine whose interests in energy development will prevail: the owner of a mineral estate or the developer of electric energy-producing wind turbines, commonly referred to as a "wind farm."
In The Osage Nation v. Wind Capital Group, LLC, the Osage Nation, a federally recognized Indian tribe, owns the mineral estate underlying Osage County, Oklahoma. According to that tribe, construction of a wind farm in and on the ground overlying the mineral estate will improperly impede access to the exploration and development of oil and gas. Because the mineral estate is dominant over the servient surface, it says, an injunction prohibiting all construction by the wind farm developer is necessary.
The Osage Nation case spotlights the concerns involved in the sometimes occurring conflicts between energy providers as to whose energy interests will prevail, and between surface users and mineral estate owners.
In a world where multiple individuals and entities possess conflicting ownership interests, lease agreements for wind projects should be drafted with the mineral interest holders in mind. Managing potential conflicts with other interest owners during the drafting process can assist in reducing disputes that might halt construction and require significant resources to resolve.
Kurt Krieger, Of Counsel, focuses his practice in the area of energy law with experience representing regulated companies and interested parties before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") and state and commonwealth public service or utility commissions.
Randy Light, Member, focuses his practice in the areas of commercial, corporate, real estate, and natural resources law. Mr. Light advises clients about their choices of business entities and the formation, capitalization, operation, and management of their commercial enterprises.
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