Rights of property owner with surface rights only

I am a non resident of Kansas and own property with the surface rights only. I purchased the property 6 years ago for the purpose of hunting deer. The property is 100% treed. There were 3 active oil wells at the time, since then a new gas and oil company purchased the drilling rights and have begun opening old well sites on the property. In doing so they have bulldozed approximately 100 trees some of which were large trees. Pushed over additional trees on the access road into the property widening the road. Destroyed the cattle gate entering the property. And pushed several tons of dirt and debris into the creek in the center of the property completely blocking the flow of water. In addition they leave trash on the property, anytime a belt breaks on the pumps the old belt ends up in the puddle of water/oil that surrounds the well.

Just wanted to know if anyone has had any similar issues and if as a surface rights only owner do I have any course of action?

Dear Mr. Bilott,

Kansas is a "reasonable use" state, subject to the accomodation doctrine to the surface owner's rights

Reasonable use in a nutshell is that the owner of the mineral estate (or lessee if under oil and gas lease) has the right to as much of the surface that is reasonably needed to conduct its operations. The surface estate is inferior to the mineral estate. The accommodation doctrine goes further than reasonable use. It requires the lessee to make reasonable accommodation to the use of the property by the surface owner.

Have you a copy of the oil lease available? Most will provide a damage clause for "growing crops and timber." Since that is the key agreement that created this situation, it is imperative to examine that document.

If it were me, I would contact the new operator and lodge complaints. If that does not work, then it really is time to get an attorney and let him handle things. There are just some things that an attorney can do that most other people cannot. The attorney that I would select would have not only oil and gas background, but also regulatory and environmental law. Sounds like you have issues with all three.


Buddy Cotten

Thank you for the information. I have contacted several attorneys just waiting on a call back. Do you happen to know how far apart these oil wells have to be?