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Coal and Oil/Gas Conflicts: Marcellus Shale Development in Coal Country

Nicolle R. Snyder Bagnell, Development Issues in the Major Shale Plays (2010)

In many parts of the United States, coal reserves and natural gas reservoirs are located in the same tracts of land, but at different depths. Because the rights to these different mineral estates are often severed, different owners of these different estates may have differing plans for extracting the resources from a given tract. As a result, coal mining and oil and gas operations have historically come into conflict when both resources are sought to be recovered from the same place at the same time. This is especially true in the Appalachian Basin, the home of the Marcellus shale, where coal owners and gas operators have been bringing their disputes to the courts for more than one hundred years.

In this paper, I will discuss the history of the conflicts between coal and gas operations,1 the nature of those conflicts, the regulatory framework that governs these operations in the Marcellus shale states, and the various options available to avoid conflict, where possible.

I. THE NATURE OF THE CONFLICTS

Coal is mined in the Marcellus region, and across the United States, in a number of different ways. One such method of coal removal is surface mining. Surface mining is accomplished by removing soil and other materials that are covering the mineral to be mined. A [12-2] common form of surface mining used in this region is strip mining. Strip mining is