For several years now, some landowners have been suing oil and gas operators concerning the condition of the land subject to a mineral lease. One Louisiana court recently struggled with the issue of when a landowner/lessor can sue a lessee under a mineral lease to remediate the property.

On May 4, 2005, in the Dore Energy case, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal concluded that a plaintiff’s claims under a mineral lease are premature to the extent they involve an obligation under the mineral lease “to restore lands on which operations are ongoing.” To the extent the claims involve lands upon which operations have been completed, the court concluded the landowner’s claims are not premature. The court also found that prudent operator claims under Article 122 of the Louisiana Mineral Code are not premature. The court overruled the lower court’s grant of an exception of prematurity with respect to plaintiff’s claims in the case based upon theories of negligence, breach of contract, punitive damages, trespass and maritime tort. The Dore Energy decision is one of several cases in the last few years that have attempted to define the mineral lessee’s relationship to the landowner with respect to remediation of the property.

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