Although it was designed to clarify divergent court opinions, a provision in a Pennsylvania budget bill may make it harder for landowners with depleted oil and gas wells to negotiate better terms with modern drillers who hold leases, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Advocates for the landowners with mineral rights say the clause in the Fiscal Code bill, which passed by a large margin via a Senate vote on July 27, upends principles of property law that have long held that oil and gas leases expire automatically when wells stop producing. Instead, the bill now creates a pathway for companies to bring old leases and their outdated financial terms back from the dead.

Section 1610 of the budget bill establishes a new general rule: Landowners waive their right to try to terminate a lease after it stopped producing oil or gas if a company either restarted production from the lease and the landowner accepted a royalty payment or a company drilled a new well on the lease after giving the landowner three months to object.

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