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    Default Mineral Ownership Under Highway and Road "Easements"

    My question involves an "easement" in the state of WV.

    Who owns the minerals, oil & gas, under roads & highways in West Virginia? Is there a particular law, statute, code, case, etc. that you can point me to as proof of this?

    An example:
    - Landowner 1 owns purchases a property with a metes & bounds description containing 100 acres in 1938.
    - Landowner 1 conveys to the State of West Virginia an easement - for highway purposes - 435.6 feet wide by 500 feet long in 1952.
    - Landowner 1 sells the property to Landowner 2 in 1960 with a new surveyed metes and bounds description excluding the 435.6 x 500 foot right of way, a parcel "containing 95 acres more or less" and referencing the land acquired in the deed in 1938.
    - Chain of title from 1960 to present references the 95 acre description.

    The easement in question is approximately 5 acres. At current Marcellus leasing prices of $3-6000, we're talking about a $36,000 potential bonus to someone plus royalties, not to mention questions as to pooling and unitization for drilling companies. And that is in reference to this example. There are thousands of miles of easements at several feet wide that this would apply to.

    - Who owns the oil and gas rights and minerals under the 5 acre "easement"?
    - - - Does the State of own it? Many states have passed laws that claim the mineral rights under all roads/highways, etc. If there is such a law (or case) in place here, can you tell me what it is?
    - - - Does Landowner 1 (or their current heirs) own the minerals? And for that matter, they own the surface still subject to an easement by the state?
    - - - Does Landowner 2 (and their subsequent heirs & assigns) own the minerals as part of the "more or less" part of the deed in 1960 as well as the reference to the 1938 deed?
    - Is there any language in the easement or deeds in particular that should be watched for that would make a difference?

    I would ask the same question of county & city road easements. Is there a difference between an easement taken for a county road, or a city street or an alley etc. that s different then how an easement by the state is treated?

    For example, many developers sell lots including the rights to the center of the street. But in some if not most deeds the lot descriptions include only the street as a bounder with the metes and bounds description going to the curb.

    Who owns the minerals from the curb to the center of the street? The developer? The city/county since its a street/road, the state by one of the laws referenced above? or the landowner who's lot actually goes to the center of the street, though not expressly saying as much in the deed?

    I have the same set of questions in Pennsylvania.

    What are the different applicable laws, cases, etc. in the State of Pennsylvania?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Behind a Desk

    Default Re: Mineral Ownership Under Highway and Road "Easements"

    From what you've stated the intention of the conveyance to landowner 2 would have been to convey the land other than that under the right-of-way, so landowner 2 would not own the land under the right-of-way. When somebody owns 100 acres and expressly excludes an area of land from a conveyance of "approximately 95 acres", it's pretty obvious that the lack of specificity does not mean that they intended to convey or actually conveyed the full 100 acres - quite the opposite.

    As this appears to be an abstraction, I'll let you do your own legwork. You can look up West Virginia statutes here and Pennsylvania statutes here.

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