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PA Supreme Court Holds the Rule of Capture Applies to Hydraulic Fracturing Operations

By Ilya Batikov

On January 22, 2020, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decided Briggs v. Southwestern Energy Prod. Co.  The issue before the Court was whether the rule of capture applies when a developer drains oil and gas from an adjacent property by drilling a well “using hydraulic fracturing solely within the developer’s property.” (emphasis in original).

The Court “reject[ed] as a matter of law the concept that the rule of capture is inapplicable to drilling and hydraulic fracturing that occurs entirely within the developer's property solely because drainage of natural resources takes place as the direct or indirect result of hydraulic fracturing, or that such drainage stems from less ‘natural’ means than conventional drainage.”

Cabined by pleading deficiencies with the landowners’ complaint and a narrow issue on appeal, the Court declined to address whether the rule of capture immunizes a developer from liability when hydraulic fracturing operations physically intrude into the subsurface of an adjoining property.

Click here to read the decision.


Tags: Rule of Capture, Marcellus Shale, Hydraulic Fracturing, Oil and Gas, Energy

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