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Basic Conservation Principles and Practices: Historical Perspectives and Basic Definitions

Bruce M. Kramer, Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Pooling and Unitization (2006)

As both the oil and gas industry and governmental regulation of the industry pass the 150-year sesquicentennial mark, it is appropriate to review the history of conservation regulation in general and the basic and related conservation concepts of pooling and unitization specifically.1 This paper will present the historical context of modern conservation regulation, including pooling and unitization as it applies to federal, Indian and fee land mineral interests. It will serve as a primer for the papers that follow which will discuss in depth the modern application of pooling and unitization principles on both federal and private lands predominantly in the western United States.2

Today it is widely accepted that the public regulation of the oil and gas industry is based on three bedrock principles: the prevention of waste, the conservation of natural resources and the protection of correlative rights.3 Early conservation regulation, however, was principally concerned with the prevention of waste in the physical sense of the term waste. For example, as early as 1879 states were regulating the plugging and casing of wells to avoid groundwater pollution.4 Such regulation was designed to prevent the physical loss of hydrocarbons as well as the prevention of the pollution of surface water and groundwater supplies that were often critical to the population in the semi-arid