More Information on
Tompkins County Gas Leases
How to Find More Information on Gas Leases:
If you would like
(1) information on gas leases not shown on this map,
(2) to read the actual leases, or
(3) to look up gas leases by leaseholder name instead of tax parcel,
then you must visit the Tompkins County Clerk’s Office or the Tompkins County Assessment Office and use their public access computers. Click here for directions on how to find this information.
When Does a Lease Expire?
Gas leases declare a beginning date and a duration (usually 5 years), but there are several reasons why they may not expire on the expected date. Below are examples of typical language in gas leases and what we believe they mean. This should not be taken as expert legal advice; if you are thinking of signing a lease or are trying to interpret a current lease, it is crucial to get advice from a lawyer experienced with gas leasing.
One typical leasing clause states something like: "This Lease shall remain in force for a primary term of Five (5) years from [some date written here] (effective date) and for as long thereafter as prescribed payments are made, or for as long thereafter as operations are conducted on the Leasehold in search of or production of oil, gas, or their constituents, or for as long as a well capable of production is located on the Leasehold, or for as long as extended by provision herein."
What does all that mean? Let's take a look, piece by piece:
"This Lease shall remain in force for a primary term of Five (5) years from [some date written here] (effective date)...."
"... and for as long thereafter as prescribed payments are made...."
"... or for as long thereafter as operations are conducted on the Leasehold in search of or production of oil, gas, or their constituents...."
"... or for as long as a well capable of production is located on the Leasehold...."
"... or for as long as extended by provision herein...."
Because very few of these extensions are recorded at the Clerk's Office, we cannot determine which leases recorded before 2005 are still in effect due to secondary terms or continued rental payments. Also, some leases recorded in 2005 had three-year primary terms that have "expired." We have removed these from the database, but they actually may be continuing in secondary terms. Active spacing units can be found on the DEC website; we plan to add these to our map in the future.
Gas companies have begun to invoke an element of contracts called force majeure to claim that expiring leases should be automatically extended. They argue that the amount of time it is taking the DEC to produce the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement has prevented gas companies from fulfilling their leasing contracts because they haven't been allowed to drill in the Marcellus Shale. According to Wikipedia, force majeure "frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, or an event described by the legal term ‘act of God' (e.g., flooding, earthquakes, volcanoes), prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract."
Very few people (perhaps including the oil and gas companies themselves) believe that the force majeure claim will hold up in court because (1) the gas companies could have drilled into other shale layers, and (2) the DEC has not prevented them from drilling into the Marcellus Shale. The companies are still free to do so as long as they conduct their own site-specific Environmental Impact Statement. The force majeure threat seems designed to scare leaseholders into renewing their leases now, under the belief that otherwise their lease will be extended without earning any additional money. If you have received a force majeure letter, please consult an attorney. You do not need to renew at this time.
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