(b) Affected StatesNot 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—
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;
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;
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
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 InteriorIn implementing this section, the Secretary of the Interior, with the participation of the Secretary of Energy, shall—
consider existing and future coal mining plans,
preserve the mineability of coal seams, and
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.
(g) Development under pooling arrangementFollowing issuance of an order establishing a spacing unit under subsection (f), 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:
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.
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.
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.
(j) Authorization to stimulate coal seam
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—
state that an entity from which consent is required pursuant to paragraph (1) has refused to provide written consent;
set forth in detail the efforts undertaken by the applicant to obtain such written consent;
state the known reasons for the consent not being provided;
set forth the conditions and compensation, if any, offered by the applicant as part of the efforts to obtain consent; and
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.
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.
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, 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.
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).
(m) Notice and objection by other partiesThe 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:
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.
Where conflicting interests exist, an order under subsection (g) establishing pooling requirements has been issued.
The notification requirements of this subsection shall be additional to the notification referred to in subsection (k). 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.
(p) DefinitionsAs used in this section—
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).
The term “coalbed methane gas” means occluded natural gas produced (or which may be produced) from coalbeds and rock strata associated therewith.
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.
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).
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) 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.
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 be commercially worked and will require protection if wells are being drilled through it.