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Coal Royalties

Burns H. Errebo, Proceedings of 26th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1980)

The use of coal as a major source of fuel in the United States increased during the early part of this century, but started to decline in the 1950's as production costs began to increase and natural gas was discovered in abundance. During the 1960's, electric utilities made rapid conversion from coal to gas, since natural gas was cheap as a result of regulation by the Federal Power Commission and because it is a clean burning, easily handled fuel. It was destined to stay at a low level until the 1970's when increasing natural gas prices, a national energy shortage, and legislation restricting use of natural gas and petroleum1 caused the electric utilities to start to convert back again to coal.

This decline in coal activity saw a corresponding decline in legal problems pertaining to coal matters, while at the same time a whole new generation of oil and gas lawyers was being developed. Thus, it is not surprising to find an abundance of writing on the law of oil and gas leases. There are perhaps as many as a dozen excellent treatises dealing with oil and gas. The reverse is true as to the law of coal leases. To the best of the writer's knowledge, [76] only two treatises on coal exist at the present time. One work was published in 1951 and is concerned principally with the law of West Virginia and Virginia.2 Probably the best current reference source is the American Law