42 U.S. Code § 13368 - Ownership of coalbed methane

(a) Federal lands and mineral rights
In the case of any deposit of coalbed methane where the United States is the owner of the surface estate or where the United States has transferred the surface estate but reserved the subsurface mineral estate, the Secretary of the Interior shall administer this section. This section and the definitions contained herein shall be applicable only on lands within Affected States.
(b) Affected States
Not later than 180 days after October 24, 1992, the Secretary of the Interior, with the participation of the Secretary of Energy, shall publish in the Federal Register a list of Affected States which shall be comprised of States—
(1) in which the Secretary of the Interior, with the participation of the Secretary of Energy, determines that disputes, uncertainty, or litigation exist, regarding the ownership of coalbed methane gas;
(2) in which the Secretary of the Interior, with the participation of the Secretary of Energy, determines that development of significant deposits of coalbed methane gas is being impeded by such existing disputes, uncertainty, or litigation regarding ownership of such coalbed methane;
(3) which do not have in effect a statutory or regulatory procedure or existing case law permitting and encouraging the development of coalbed methane gas within that State; and
(4) which do not have extensive development of coalbed methane gas.
The Secretary of the Interior, with the participation of the Secretary of Energy, shall revise such list of Affected States from time to time. Any Affected State shall be deleted from the list of Affected States upon the receipt by the Secretary of the Interior of a Governor’s petition requesting such deletion, a State law requesting such deletion, or a resolution requesting such deletion enacted by the legislative body of the State. A Governor intending to petition the Secretary of the Interior to delete a State from the list of Affected States shall provide the State’s legislative body with 6 months notice of such petition during a legislative session. At the end of such 6-month period, the Governor may petition the Secretary of the Interior to delete a State from the list of Affected States, unless during such 6-month period, the State’s legislative body has enacted a law or resolution disapproving the Governor’s petition. Until the Secretary of the Interior, with the participation of the Secretary of Energy, publishes a different list, the States of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, and Illinois shall be the Affected States, effective on October 24, 1992. The States of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama shall not be included on the Secretary of the Interior’s list of Affected States or any extension or revision thereof.
(c) Failure to adopt statutory or regulatory procedure
If an Affected State has not placed in effect, by statute or by regulation, a substantial program promoting the permitting, drilling and production of coalbed methane wells (including pooling arrangements) within that State within 3 years after becoming an Affected State, the Secretary of the Interior, with the participation of the Secretary of Energy, shall administer this section and shall promulgate such regulations as are necessary to carry out this section in that State.
(d) Implementation by Secretary of the Interior
In implementing this section, the Secretary of the Interior, with the participation of the Secretary of Energy, shall—
(A) consider existing and future coal mining plans,
(B) preserve the mineability of coal seams, and
(C) provide for the prevention of waste and maximization of recovery of coal and coalbed methane gas in a manner which will protect the rights of all entities owning an interest in such coalbed methane resource.
(e) Spacing
Except where State law in an Affected State contains existing spacing requirements regarding the minimum distance between coalbed methane wells and the minimum distance of a coalbed methane well from a property line, the Secretary of the Interior shall establish such requirements within 90 days after the assertion of jurisdiction pursuant to subsection (c) of this section.
(f) Spacing units
Applications to establish spacing units for the drilling and operation of coalbed methane gas wells may be filed by any entity claiming a coalbed methane ownership interest within a proposed spacing unit. Upon receipt and approval of an application, the Secretary of the Interior shall issue an order establishing the boundaries of the coalbed methane spacing unit. Spacing units shall generally be uniform in size.
(g) Development under pooling arrangement
Following issuance of an order establishing a spacing unit under subsection (f) of this section, and pursuant to an application for pooling filed by the entity claiming a coalbed methane ownership interest and proposing to drill a coalbed methane gas well, the Secretary of the Interior shall hold a hearing to consider the application for pooling and shall, if the criteria of this section are met, issue an order allowing the proposed pooling of acreage within the designated spacing unit for purposes of drilling and production of coalbed methane from the spacing unit. The pooling order shall not be issued before notice or a reasonable and diligent effort to provide notice has been made to each entity which may claim an ownership interest in the coalbed methane gas within such spacing unit and each such entity has been offered an opportunity to appear before the Secretary of the Interior at the hearing. Upon issuance of a pooling order, each owner or claimant of an ownership interest shall be allowed to make one of the following elections:
(1) An election to sell or lease its coalbed methane ownership interest to the unit operator at a rate determined by the Secretary of the Interior as set forth in the pooling order.
(2) An election to become a participating working interest owner by bearing a share of the risks and costs of drilling, completing, equipping, gathering, operating (including all disposal costs), plugging and abandoning the well, and receiving a share of production from the well.
(3) An election to share in the operation of the well as a nonparticipating working interest owner by relinquishing its working interest to participating working interest owners until the proceeds allocable to its share equal 300 percent of the share of such costs allocable to its interest. Thereafter, the nonparticipating working interest owner shall become a participating working interest owner.
The pooling order shall designate a unit operator who shall be authorized to drill and operate the spacing unit. The pooling order shall provide that any entity claiming an ownership interest in the coalbed methane within such spacing unit which does not make an election under the pooling order shall be deemed to have leased its coalbed methane interest to the unit operator under such terms and conditions as the pooling order may provide. No pooling order may be issued under this paragraph for any spacing unit if all entities claiming an ownership interest in the coalbed methane in the spacing unit have entered into a voluntary agreement providing for the drilling and operation of the coalbed methane gas well for the spacing unit.
(h) Escrow account
(1) Each pooling order issued under subsection (g) of this section shall provide for the establishment of an escrow account into which the payment of costs and proceeds attributable to the conflicting interests shall be deposited and held for the interest of the claimants as follows:
(A) Each participating working interest owner, except for the unit operator, shall deposit in the escrow account its proportionate share of the costs allocable to the ownership interest claimed by each such participating working interest owner as set forth in the pooling order issued by the Secretary of the Interior.
(B) The unit operator shall deposit in the escrow account all proceeds attributable to the conflicting interests of lessees, plus all proceeds in excess of ongoing operational expenses (including reasonable overhead costs) attributable to conflicting working interests.
(2) The Secretary of the Interior shall order payment of principal and accrued interest from the escrow account to all legally entitled entities within 30 days of receipt by the Secretary of the Interior of notification of the final legal determination of entitlement or upon agreement of all entities claiming an ownership interest in the coalbed methane gas. Upon such final determination—
(A) each legally entitled participating working interest owner shall receive a proportionate share of the proceeds attributable to the conflicting ownership interest;
(B) each legally entitled nonparticipating working interest owner shall receive a proportionate share of the proceeds attributable to the conflicting ownership interest, less the cost of being carried as a nonparticipating working interest owner (as determined by the election of the entity under the applicable pooling order);
(C) each entity leasing (or deemed to have leased) its coalbed methane ownership interest to the unit operator shall receive a share of the royalty proceeds (as set out in the applicable pooling order) attributable to the conflicting interests of lessees; and
(D) the unit operator shall receive the costs contributed to the escrow account by each legally entitled participating working interest owner.
The Secretary of the Interior shall enact rules and regulations for the administration and protection of funds delivered to the escrow accounts.
(i) Approval of Secretary of the Interior
No entity may drill any well for the production of coalbed methane gas from a coal seam, subject to the provisions of subsection (g) of this section, in an Affected State unless the drilling of such well has been approved by the Secretary of the Interior.
(j) Authorization to stimulate coal seam
(1) No operator of a coalbed methane well may stimulate a coal seam without the written consent of each entity which, at the time that the coalbed methane operator applies for a drilling permit, is operating a coal mine, or has by virtue of his property rights in the coal the ability to operate a coal mine, located within a horizontal or vertical distance from the point of stimulation as established by the Secretary of the Interior pursuant to paragraph (3) of this subsection. In seeking the coal operator’s consent, a coalbed methane well operator shall provide the coal operator with necessary information about such stimulation, including relevant information to ensure compliance with coal mine safety laws and rules.
(2) In the absence of a written consent pursuant to paragraph (1) and at the request of a coalbed methane operator, the Secretary of the Interior shall make a determination regarding stimulation of a coal seam. Such request shall include an affidavit which shall—
(A) state that an entity from which consent is required pursuant to paragraph (1) has refused to provide written consent;
(B) set forth in detail the efforts undertaken by the applicant to obtain such written consent;
(C) state the known reasons for the consent not being provided;
(D) set forth the conditions and compensation, if any, offered by the applicant as part of the efforts to obtain consent; and
(E) provide prima facie evidence that the method of stimulation proposed by the coalbed methane operator will not
(i) cause unreasonable loss or damage to the coal seam considering all factors, including the prospect, taking into consideration the economics of the coal industry, that coal seams for which no actual or proposed mining plans exist will be mined at some future date, or
(ii) violate mine safety requirements. If a denial of consent by a coal operator is based on reasons related to safety, the Secretary of the Interior shall seek the views and recommendations of the appropriate State or Federal coal mine safety agency. Any determination by the Secretary of the Interior shall be in accordance with all applicable Federal and State coal mine safety laws and such views and recommendations. A determination by the Secretary of the Interior approving a method of stimulation may include reasonable conditions including, but not limited to, conditions to mitigate, to the extent practicable, economic damage to the coal seam. Any determination approving or denying a method of stimulation by the Secretary of the Interior shall be subject to appeal. Interested entities shall be allowed to participate in and comment on proceedings under this paragraph.
(3) The Secretary of the Interior shall by rule establish, for an Affected State, a region thereof, or a multi-State region comprised of Affected States, the boundaries within which a coalbed methane operator shall be required to obtain written consent from a coal operator pursuant to paragraph (1). Such boundaries shall be stated in terms of a horizontal and a vertical distance from the point of stimulation and shall be determined based on an evaluation of the maximum length, height and depth of fracture producible in a coal seam in such Affected State, region thereof, or multi-State region comprised of Affected States.
(4) The consent required under this subsection shall in no way be deemed to impair, abridge, or affect any contractual rights or objections arising out of a coalbed methane gas contract or coalbed methane gas lease in existence as of October 24, 1992, [1] between the coalbed methane operator and the coal operator, and the existence of such lease or contractual agreement and any extensions or renewals of such lease shall be deemed to fully meet the requirements of this section.
(5) Nothing in this subsection precludes either a coal operator or a coalbed methane operator from seeking in the appropriate State forum compensation for the consequences of a determination by the Secretary of the Interior pursuant to paragraph (2).
(k) Notice and objection
(1) The Secretary of the Interior shall not approve the drilling of any coalbed methane well unless the unit operator has notified each entity which is operating, or has the ability, by virtue of his property rights in the coal, to operate, a coal mine in any portion of the coalbed that would be affected by such well within the distances established pursuant to the rules promulgated under subsection (j)(3) of this section. Any notified entity may object to the drilling of such well within 30 days after receipt of a notice. Upon receipt of a timely objection to the drilling of any coalbed methane gas well submitted by a notified entity, the Secretary of the Interior may refuse to approve the drilling of the well based on any of the following:
(A) The proposed activity, due to its proximity to any coal mine opening, shaft, underground workings, or to any proposed extension of the coal mine, would adversely affect any operating, inactive or abandoned coal mine, including any coal mine already surveyed and platted but not yet being operated.
(B) The proposed activity would not conform with a coal operator’s development plan for an existing or proposed operation.
(C) There would be an unreasonable interference from the proposed activity with present or future coal mining operations, including the ability to comply with other applicable laws and regulations.
(D) The presence of evidence indicating that the proposed drilling activities would be unsafe, taking into consideration the dangers from creeps, squeezes or other disturbances due to the extraction of coal.
(E) The proposed activity would unreasonably interfere with the safe recovery of coal, oil and gas.
(2) In the event the Secretary of the Interior does not approve the drilling of a coalbed methane well pursuant to paragraph (1), the Secretary of the Interior shall consider whether such drilling could be approved if the unit operator modifies the proposed activities to take into account any of the following:
(A) The proposed activity could instead be reasonably done through an existing or planned pillar of coal, or in close proximity to an existing well or such pillar of coal, taking into consideration surface topography.
(B) The proposed activity could instead be moved to a mined-out area, below the coal outcrop or to some other feasible area.
(C) The unit operator agrees to a drilling moratorium of not more than two years in order to permit completion of coal mining operations.
(D) The practicality of locating the proposed spacing unit or well on a uniform pattern with other spacing units or wells.
(l) Plugging
All coalbed methane wells drilled after October 24, 1992, that penetrate coal seams with remaining reserves shall provide for subsequent safe mining through the well in accordance with standards prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with any Federal and State agencies having authority over coal mine safety. Well plugging costs should be allocated in accordance with State law or private contractual arrangement, as the case may be.
(m) Notice and objection by other parties
The Secretary of the Interior shall not approve the drilling of any coalbed methane well unless such well complies with the spacing and other requirements established by the Secretary of the Interior and each of the following:
(1) The unit operator of such well has notified, or has made a reasonable and diligent effort to notify, all entities claiming ownership of coalbed methane to be drained by such well and provided an opportunity to object in accordance with requirements established by the Secretary of the Interior.
(2) Where conflicting interests exist, an order under subsection (g) of this section establishing pooling requirements has been issued.
The notification requirements of this subsection shall be additional to the notification referred to in subsection (k) of this section. The Secretary of the Interior shall establish the conditions under which entities claiming ownership of coalbed methane may object to the drilling of a coalbed methane well.
(n) Venting for safety
Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent or inhibit the entity which has the right to develop and mine coal in any mine from venting coalbed methane gas to ensure safe mine operations.
(o) Other laws
The Secretary of the Interior shall comply with all applicable Federal and State coal mine safety laws and regulations.
(p) Definitions
As used in this section—
(1) The term “Affected State” means a State listed by the Secretary of the Interior, with the participation of the Secretary of Energy, under subsection (b) of this section.
(2) The term “coalbed methane gas” means occluded natural gas produced (or which may be produced) from coalbeds and rock strata associated therewith.
(3) The term “unit operator” means the entity designated in a pooling order to develop a spacing unit by the drilling of one or more wells on the unit.
(4) The term “nonparticipating working interest owner” means a gas or oil owner of a tract included in a spacing unit which elects to share in the operation of the well on a carried basis by agreeing to have its proportionate share of the costs allocable to its interest charged against its share of production of the well in accordance with subsection (f)(3) of this section.
(5) The term “participating working interest owner” means a gas or oil owner which elects to bear a share of the risks and costs of drilling, completing, equipping, gathering, operating (including any and all disposal costs)  [2] plugging, and abandoning a well on a spacing unit and to receive a share of production from the well equal to the proportion which the acreage in the spacing unit it owns or holds under lease bears to the total acreage of the spacing unit.
(6) The term “coal seam” means any stratum of coal 20 inches or more in thickness, unless a stratum of less thickness is being commercially worked, or can in the judgment of the Secretary of the Interior forseeably  [3] be commercially worked and will require protection if wells are being drilled through it.


[1]  See Codification note below.

[2]  So in original. Probably should be followed by a comma.

[3]  So in original. Probably should be “foreseeably”.

Source

(Pub. L. 102–486, title XIII, § 1339,Oct. 24, 1992, 106 Stat. 2986.)
Codification

October 24, 1992, referred to in subsec. (j)(4), was in the original “the effective date of this section”, which was translated as meaning the date of enactment of Pub. L. 102–486, which enacted this section.
Federal Coalbed Methane Regulation

Pub. L. 109–58, title III, § 387,Aug. 8, 2005, 119 Stat. 744, provided that: “Any State currently on the list of Affected States established under section 1339(b) of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (42 U.S.C. 13368 (b)) shall be removed from the list if, not later than 3 years after the date of enactment of this Act [Aug. 8, 2005], the State takes, or prior to the date of enactment has taken, any of the actions required for removal from the list under such section 1339(b).”

The table below lists the classification updates, since Jan. 3, 2012, for this section. Updates to a broader range of sections may be found at the update page for containing chapter, title, etc.

The most recent Classification Table update that we have noticed was Tuesday, August 13, 2013

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42 USCDescription of ChangeSession YearPublic LawStatutes at Large

 

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