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A mineral owner may sever and assign a surface easement for the limited purpose of conducting geophysical exploration.
Appellant Enron Oil & Gas Company obtained its permit from mineral interest owners of certain land that granted it permission to conduct seismic exploration on the property. Appellee surface interest owners interfered with the appellant’s attempts to conduct the exploration. Appellant was granted a temporary injunction against the appellees to enjoin interference with exploration on lands for which it held mineral leases, but the trial court denied its request for an injunction with respect to the lands for which it had the permit to explore because the mineral owners could not sever the right to exploration. Appellant sought review of the decision.
Could the mineral owners sever the right to exploration, thereby entitling the appellant to an injunction with respect to the lands for which it had the permit to explore?
On appeal, the court reversed the judgment of the trial court and ordered the issuance of the temporary injunction against the appellee surface interest owners. The court held that a mineral owner could sever and assign a surface easement for the limited purpose of conducting geophysical exploration. Divisibility was permissible so long as the servient owner's estate was not burdened beyond the terms of the grant. In this case, the appellant established its right to a temporary injunction with certainty and clear, convincing, and satisfactory evidence.