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Enteck GRB LLC v. Stull Ranches, LLC

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20189
Nos. No. 13-1172, (10th Cir., 08/14/2014)

The Tenth Circuit held that an energy company may cross private property in order to develop new oil well sites under the property owner's surface estate as well as to access one of its existing wells located on adjacent BLM property. The only way to access the well on the BLM property is via a road that crosses the private property owner's land. The property owner, which runs a grouse hunting business, refused to grant access due to concerns that the company's presence would disturb the wildlife. The lower court correctly ruled that the company could access portions of the hunting business' service to mine certain leases lying below the property owner's surface estate. But the lower court erred in holding that the company could not cross the property in order to service the well on the adjacent BLM land. Because the Secretary of Interior had approved a "unitization" agreement covering a 40,000 acre region that includes the relevant portions of the property owner's surface estate and BLM’s land, the energy company can enter and occupy the surface above any leasehold in the unitized area to the extent that surface access is reasonably incident to mining in any leasehold in the unitized area. The right to enter and occupy the surface is not limited to particular leaseholds or surface estates.