For what surely will not be the last time, a drilling company and landowner can't agree on whether operations began in time to keep a lease from terminating. Chesapeake Energy on Feb. 15 sued members of an Arlington family, maintaining that the company started grading the family's south Arlington property the day before the lease was to expire at midnight Jan. 23. Chesapeake also blames the city of Arlington for not acting quickly enough on its drilling permit, which the company said it filed Oct. 9. The city's on-line drilling information site advises allowing 13 weeks for a permit to be approved.
Lacking a drilling permit, Chesapeake says in its suit that on Jan. 22 it obtained a grading permit from the city and hustled right out to the site "with two bulldozers and other heavy machinery and ultimately built 825 feet of road, moved onto location approximately 3,800 tons of base rock and built a pad site 385 feet by 230 feet." Not good enough, the family's attorney informed Chesapeake on Jan. 30. "The oil and gas lease was for a term of two years from Jan. 23, 2006, and expired without production on Jan. 24, 2008."
What does the lease say? Well, one clause says that if the lessee -- that's Chesapeake -- can't comply with the terms of the lease because of "any order, rule or regulation of governmental authority," then the lease is extended. Another clause says that "if Lessee is engaged in drilling or reworking operations" then the lease remains in effect. Dallas attorney Bill Masterson, who represents the family, argues that Chesapeake just didn't get the ball rolling soon enough on the drilling permit, and without a drilling permit, Chesapeake's not drilling a well. So the lease is over, says Masterson, who's drafting a court response to Chesapeake's suit.
And this is why we will always have lawyers.
-- Jim Fuquay