The development of oil and natural gas resources underlying state lands gets more complicated when the mineral and surface estates have been severed, according to this article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
[Update: The article above refers to Belden & Blake Corp. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, DCNR, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision issued just last week (April 29, 2009) and involving a producer's right to develop the minerals underlying state lands when the mineral and surface estates have been severed.
The Court held that the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources could not unilaterally impose a "coordination agreement" on the producer imposing additional conditions on the producer's exercise of its right to enter the property for development:
A subsurface owner's rights cannot be diminished because the surface comes to be owned by the government, or any party with statutory obligations, regardless of their salutary nature. A 'regular' surface owner cannot unilaterally impose extra conditions on the subsurface owner beyond those that are reasonable. DCNR may wish to do so because of its statutory duties, but its mandate does not allow it to do so unilaterally, nor does it shift the burden of seeking redress to the subsurface owner.
A copy of the Court's decision can be found here.]