In the 2007 film There Will Be Blood, Eli Sunday offers to sell Daniel Plainview the drilling rights to land of the recently-deceased William Bandy. Plainview mocks Sunday’s offer, revealing that he has already drained Bandy’s land dry of oil, and the land is now worthless. To illustrate, Plainview uses the analogy of reaching a straw across the room to drink Sunday’s imaginary milkshake. Plainview shouts “I drink your milkshake . . . I drink it up!” in Sunday’s face.

The practice of draining hydrocarbons from beneath an adjoining property is nothing new and is subject to the legal concept known as “the rule of capture.” In the context of oil and gas law, the rule of capture precludes liability for draining oil and gas from under another’s property so long as there has been no trespass. In Pennsylvania, a trespass occurs when a person intrudes onto property owned by someone else without their consent or places an object on someone’s property without their consent. On January 22, 2020, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania declared that protection under the rule of capture applies to hydraulic fracturing, i.e. “fracking.” More specifically, developers who use hydraulic fracturing may rely on pressure differential
Continue Reading I Drink Your Milkshake! Fracking and the Rule of Capture

Did you know that under certain circumstances a private individual can acquire government-owned land without the government’s consent? Although the Commonwealth’s immunity from adverse possession claims has never been in question, whether political subdivisions of the Commonwealth are subject to adverse possession claims has been less clear. On September 26, 2019, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania addressed this matter in the case of City of Philadelphia v. Galdo, 2019 Pa. LEXIS 5452. In Galdo, the Supreme Court held that political subdivisions in Pennsylvania may be subject to claims of adverse possession, except where the property is devoted to a public use. The facts of Galdo provide great insight into this matter.

In 1974, the City of Philadelphia condemned 1101-1119 N. Front Street in Philadelphia for transit purposes related to the construction of Route I-95 (the “Parcel”). The City, however, never physically occupied the Parcel or used it for public transit purposes as originally intended. Instead, the Parcel remained vacant and unmaintained, with the City viewing it as “surplus property” that was not actively being used.
Continue Reading Use It or Lose It: Political Subdivisions are Subject to Claims of Adverse Possession

We mentioned in a prior post that failing to follow procedural requirements for land use hearings can lead to unwanted results for all – or at least most – involved. In a recent example, the Commonwealth Court ruled that Lewis Township’s Zoning Ordinance was void from inception after finding that the Board of Supervisors failed to comply with the Municipalities Planning Code (the “MPC”) requirements for adopting zoning ordinances.

In Yannaccone v. Lewis Twp. Bd. of Supervisors, the Township formed a Zoning Ordinance Committee (“ZOC”) to create a proposed zoning ordinance to present to the Board for adoption. The Board published notice of a public hearing scheduled on the Ordinance. The Board held the hearing in accordance with the public notice and subsequently adopted the Ordinance at a later regularly scheduled meeting. Less than one month after the Ordinance became effective
Continue Reading No Notice: Commonwealth Court Scraps Township Zoning Ordinance