I am fortunate that I get to speak with a lot of people about their oil and gas issues. Lots of people have questions about their leases, their royalties, other payments, pipelines, right of ways and even just the loud noise that might be coming from the operations next door. Time and again as I speak to potential new clients, we need them to gather their documents together for review. If you have questions about your lease, your right of way, your payments or the types of operations that might be going on, your first step before calling an attorney should be to make sure that you have all of your documents together. The relationship that you have with the gas company is mainly controlled by the language of the written agreements that you entered into with the company. The “law” -so to speak -may provide some details, but by in large the words of the agreement that you have control. The language of the agreement may even exclude or void some provisions of what you might consider the law to be. Courts in all states respect the freedom to contract. If you have a deal with someone the courts will try to enforce that deal to the greatest extent possible. With that being said, there are still some legal rules that can help landowners when faced with confusing or misleading contract language. For example, if the gas company prepared the contract and there is ambiguity- or confusion- as to what the language of the contract means, then often times a court is required to read the contract in the light most favorable to person who did not write the contract. Additionally, sometimes the gas companies don’t seem to understand or remember what their contract requires of them. I have reviewed several agreements where the companies have shot themselves in the foot by not following their own contract language.
Oil and gas leases, pipeline agreements and right of way documents are often confusing. It is vitally important, however, that you understand the general meaning of those documents to know if you are, in fact, being treated appropriately. If you have questions about any oil and gas related issue your first step should be gather your papers. After you gather all of the relevant papers you are in a good position to call an attorney who can look at the documents and determine if they can help you.