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Code of Virginia
Title 45.2. Mines, Minerals, and Energy
Chapter 16. Virginia Gas and Oil Act
10/16/2021

Article 2. Gas and Oil Conservation.

§ 45.2-1613. (Effective October 1, 2021) Meetings of the Board; notice; general powers and duties.

A. The Board shall schedule a monthly meeting at a time and place designated by the chairman. If no petition for action is filed with the Board prior to a meeting, the Board may cancel the meeting. Notification or cancellation of each meeting shall be given in writing to the members by the chairman at least five days in advance of the meeting. Four members shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of any business that comes before the Board. All determinations of the Board shall be by majority vote of the quorum present.

B. The Board has the power necessary to execute and carry out all of its duties specified in this chapter. The Board is authorized to investigate and inspect records and facilities as necessary and proper to perform its duties under this chapter. The Board may employ personnel and consultants as necessary to perform its duties under this chapter.

1982, c. 347, § 45.1-296; 1987, c. 452; 1990, c. 92, § 45.1-361.14; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1614. (Effective October 1, 2021) Additional duties and responsibilities of the Board.

A. In executing its duties under this chapter, the Board shall:

1. Foster, encourage, and promote the safe and efficient exploration for and development, production, and conservation of gas and oil resources located in the Commonwealth;

2. Administer a method of gas and oil conservation for the purpose of maximizing exploration, development, production, and utilization of gas and oil resources;

3. Administer procedures for the recognition and protection of the rights of gas or oil owners with interests in gas or oil resources contained within a pool;

4. Promote the maximum production and recovery of coal without substantially affecting the right of a gas owner proposing a gas well to explore for and produce gas; and

5. Hear and decide appeals of the Director's decisions and orders issued under Article 3 (§ 45.2-1629 et seq.).

B. Without limiting its general authority, the Board has the specific authority to issue regulations or orders pursuant to the provisions of the Administrative Process Act (§ 2.2-4000 et seq.) in order to:

1. Prevent waste through the design, spacing, or unitization of wells, pools, or fields.

2. Protect correlative rights.

3. Enter spacing and pooling orders.

4. Establish drilling units.

5. Establish maximum allowable production rates for the prevention of waste and the protection of correlative rights.

6. Provide for the maximum recovery of coal.

7. Classify pools and wells as gas, oil, gas and oil, or coalbed methane gas.

8. Collect data, make investigations and inspections, examine property, leases, papers, books, and records, and require or provide for the keeping of records and the making of reports.

9. Set application fees.

10. Govern practices and procedures before the Board.

11. Require additional data from parties to any hearing.

12. Take actions reasonably necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter.

1982, c. 347, § 45.1-296; 1987, c. 452; 1990, c. 92, § 45.1-361.15; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1615. (Effective October 1, 2021) Applicability and construction.

A. The provisions of this article apply to all lands in the Commonwealth, whether publicly or privately owned. However, no well commenced prior to July 1, 1990, shall be required to be plugged or abandoned solely for purposes of complying with the conservation provisions of this article.

B. No provision of this article shall be construed to grant to the Board the authority or power to fix prices of gas or oil.

1982, c. 347, § 45.1-300; 1987, c. 452; 1990, c. 92, § 45.1-361.16; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1616. (Effective October 1, 2021) Statewide spacing of wells.

A. Unless prior approval has been received from the Board or a provision of the field or pool rules so allows:

1. No well drilled in search of oil shall be located closer than 1,250 feet to any well completed in the same pool; however, this spacing requirement is subject to § 45.2-1612;

2. No well drilled in search of gas shall be located closer than 2,500 feet to any other well completed in the same pool or closer than 2,500 feet to any storage well within the boundary of a gas storage field certificated by the State Corporation Commission prior to January 1, 1997, if the well to be drilled is to be completed within the same horizon as the certificated gas storage field; and

3. No well shall be drilled closer to the boundary of the acreage supporting the well, whether such acreage is a single leasehold or other tract or a contractual or statutory drilling unit, than one-half of the applicable minimum well spacing distance prescribed in this section.

B. Unless prior approval has been received from the Board or a provision of the field or pool rules so allows:

1. No well drilled in search of coalbed methane gas shall be located closer than 1,000 feet to any other coalbed methane gas well, or in the case of a coalbed methane gas well located in the gob, closer than 500 feet to any other coalbed methane gas well located in the gob.

2. No coalbed methane gas well shall be drilled closer than 500 feet, or in the case of a well located in the gob, closer than 250 feet, from the boundary of the acreage supporting the well, whether such acreage is a single leasehold or other tract or a contractual or statutory drilling unit.

3. The spacing limitations set forth in this subsection are subject to the provisions of §§ 45.2-1611 and 45.2-1612.

1990, c. 92, § 45.1-361.17; 1996, c. 854; 1997, c. 759; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1617. (Effective October 1, 2021) Voluntary pooling of interests in drilling units; validity of unit agreements.

A. If two or more separately owned tracts are embraced within a drilling unit, or if there are separately owned interests in all or a part of any such drilling unit, the gas or oil owners owning such interests may pool their interests for the development and operation of the drilling unit by voluntary agreement. Such agreement may be based on the exercise of pooling rights or rights to establish drilling units that are granted in any gas or oil lease.

B. No voluntary pooling agreement between or among gas or oil owners shall be held to violate the statutory or common law of the Commonwealth that prohibits monopolies or acts, arrangements, contracts, combinations, or conspiracies in restraint of trade or commerce.

1982, c. 347, § 45.1-302; 1987, c. 452; 1989, c. 529; 1990, c. 92, § 45.1-361.18; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1618. (Effective October 1, 2021) Notice of hearing; standing; form of hearing.

A. Any person who applies for a hearing in front of the Board pursuant to the provisions of § 45.2-1619, 45.2-1620, or 45.2-1622 shall simultaneously with the filing of such application provide notice by commercial delivery service, return receipt requested, or certified mail, return receipt requested, to each gas or oil owner, coal owner, or mineral owner having an interest underlying the tract that is the subject of the hearing and to the operator of any gas storage field certificated by the State Corporation Commission as a public utility facility whose certificated area includes the tract that is the subject of the hearing. Whenever a hearing applicant is unable to provide such written notice because the identity or location of a person to whom notice is required to be given is unknown, the hearing applicant shall promptly notify the Board of such inability.

B. At least 10 days prior to a hearing, the Board shall publish its agenda in a newspaper of general circulation in each locality where the lands that are the subject of the hearing are located. The agenda shall include the name of each applicant, the locality where the lands that are the subject of the hearing are located, the purpose of the hearing, and the date, time, and location of the hearing.

C. The Board shall conduct all hearings on any application made to it pursuant to the formal litigated issues hearing provisions of the Administrative Process Act (§ 2.2-4000 et seq.). The applicant and any person to whom notice is required to be given pursuant to subsection A shall have standing to be heard at the hearing. The Board shall render its decision on such application within 30 days of the hearing's closing date and shall provide notification of its decision to all parties to the hearing pursuant to the provisions of the Administrative Process Act.

1982, c. 347, § 45.1-304; 1989, c. 529; 1990, c. 92, § 45.1-361.19; 1997, c. 759; 2008, c. 534; 2019, c. 351; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1619. (Effective October 1, 2021) Field rules and drilling units for wells; hearings and orders.

A. In order to prevent the waste of gas or oil or the drilling of unnecessary wells or to protect correlative rights, the Board on its own motion or upon application of the gas or oil owner may establish or modify drilling units. Drilling units, to the extent reasonably possible, shall be of uniform shape and size for an entire pool. Any gas, oil, or royalty owner may apply to the Board for the establishment of field rules and the creation of drilling units for the field. Unless such motion is made or an application is received at least 30 days prior to the next regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Board, it shall not be heard by the Board at such meeting and shall be heard at the next meeting of the Board thereafter.

B. At any hearing of the Board regarding the establishment or modification of drilling units, the Board shall make the following determinations:

1. Whether the proposed drilling unit is an unreasonable or arbitrary exercise of a gas or oil owner's right to explore for or produce gas or oil;

2. Whether the proposal would unreasonably interfere with the present or future mining of coal or other minerals;

3. The acreage to be included in the order;

4. The acreage to be embraced within each drilling unit and its shape;

5. The area within which wells may be drilled on each unit; and

6. The allowable production of each well.

C. In establishing or modifying a drilling unit for coalbed methane gas wells, and in order to accommodate the unique characteristics of coalbed methane development, the Board shall require that drilling units conform to the mine development plan, if any. If requested by the coal operator, well spacing shall correspond with mine operations, including the drilling of multiple coalbed methane gas wells on each drilling unit.

D. If an order to establish or modify a drilling unit will allow a well to be drilled into or through a coal seam, any coal owner within the area to be covered by the drilling unit may object to the establishment of the drilling unit. Upon a coal owner's objection, and without superseding, impairing, abridging, or affecting any contractual rights or obligations existing between coal and gas owners, the Board shall make its determination in accordance with the provisions of §§ 45.2-1611 and 45.2-1612.

E. The Board may continue a hearing to its next meeting to allow for further investigation and the gathering and taking of additional data and evidence. If at the time of a hearing there is not sufficient evidence for the Board to determine field boundaries, drilling unit size or shape, or allowable production, the Board may enter a temporary order establishing provisional drilling units, field boundaries, and allowable production for the orderly development of the pool pending receipt of the information necessary to determine the ultimate pool boundaries, spacing of wells for the pool, and allowable production. Upon additional findings of fact, the boundaries of a pool, drilling units for the pool, and allowable production may be modified by the Board.

F. Unless otherwise provided for by the Board, after an application for a hearing to establish or modify drilling units or pool boundaries has been filed, no additional well shall be permitted in the pool until the Board's order establishing or modifying the pool or units has been entered.

G. After the Board issues a field or pool spacing order that creates drilling units or a pattern of drilling units for a pool, if a gas or oil owner applies for a permit or otherwise indicates his desire to drill a well outside of such drilling units or pattern of drilling units and thereby potentially extend the pool, the Board may, on its own motion or the motion of any interested person, require that the well be located and drilled in compliance with the provisions of the order affecting the pool.

1982, c. 347, § 45.1-301; 1987, c. 452; 1989, c. 529; 1990, c. 92, § 45.1-361.20; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1620. (Effective October 1, 2021) Pooling of interests in drilling units.

A. The Board, upon application from any gas or oil owner, shall enter an order pooling all interests in a drilling unit for the development and operation thereof when:

1. Two or more separately owned tracts are embraced in a drilling unit;

2. There are separately owned interests in all or part of any such drilling unit and those owners having interests have not agreed to pool their interests; or

3. There are separately owned tracts embraced within the minimum statewide spacing requirements prescribed in § 45.2-1616.

However, no pooling order shall be entered until the notice and hearing requirements of this article have been satisfied.

B. Subject to any contrary provision contained in a gas or oil lease regarding the property, gas or oil operations incident to the drilling of a well on any portion of a unit covered by a pooling order shall be deemed to be the conduct of such operations on each tract in the unit. The portion of production allocated to any tract covered by a pooling order shall be in the same proportion as the acreage of that tract bears to the total acreage of the unit.

C. Every pooling order entered by the Board pursuant to the provisions of this section shall:

1. Authorize the drilling and operation of a well, including the stimulation of all coal seams in the case of a coalbed methane well when authorized pursuant to clause (iii) of subdivision F 2 b of § 45.2-1631, subject to the permit provisions contained in Article 3 (§ 45.2-1629 et seq.);

2. Include the time and date when such order expires;

3. Designate the gas or oil owner who is authorized to drill and operate the well. Except in the case of a coalbed methane gas well, such designated operator shall possess the right to conduct operations or possess the written consent of owners with the right to conduct operations on at least 25 percent of the acreage included in the unit;

4. Prescribe the conditions under which a gas or oil owner may become a participating operator or exercise a right of election under subdivision 7;

5. Establish the sharing of all reasonable costs, including a reasonable supervision fee, between participating operators so that each participating operator pays the same percentage of such costs as his acreage bears to the total unit acreage;

6. Require that any nonleasing gas or oil owner be provided with reasonable access to unit records submitted to the Director or Inspector;

7. Establish a procedure for a gas or oil owner who received notice of the hearing but does not decide to become a participating operator to elect to (i) sell or lease his gas or oil ownership to a participating operator, (ii) enter into a voluntary agreement to share in the operation of the well at a rate of payment mutually agreed to by the gas or oil owner and the gas or oil operator authorized to drill the well, or (iii) share in the operation of the well as a nonparticipating operator on a carried basis after the proceeds allocable to his share equal the following:

a. In the case of a leased tract, 300 percent of the share of such costs allocable to his interest; or

b. In the case of an unleased tract, 200 percent of the share of such costs allocable to his interest.

D. Any gas or oil owner whose identity and location remain unknown at the conclusion of a hearing concerning the establishment of a pooling order for which public notice was given shall be deemed to have elected to lease his interest to the gas or oil operator at a rate to be established by the Board. The Board shall cause to be established an escrow account into which the unknown lessor's share of proceeds shall be paid and held for his benefit. Such escrowed proceeds shall be deemed to be unclaimed property and shall be disposed of pursuant to the provisions of the Virginia Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act (§ 55.1-2500 et seq.). Upon discovery of the identity and location of any unknown owner of an interest that is subject to escrow under the provisions of this subsection and is not subject to conflicting claims of ownership, the designated operator shall, within 30 days, file with the Board a petition for disbursement of funds to be considered at the next available hearing. The petition shall include a detailed accounting of all funds deposited in escrow that are subject to the proposed disbursement.

E. Any person who does not make an election under the pooling order shall be deemed to have leased his gas or oil interest to the gas or oil well operator as the pooling order provides.

F. If a gas or oil owner is a person under a disability, the applicant for a pooling order may petition the appropriate circuit court to appoint a guardian ad litem pursuant to the provisions of § 8.01-261 for purposes of making the election provided for by this section.

G. Any royalty or overriding royalty reserved in any lease that is deducted from a nonparticipating operator's share of production shall not be subject to charges for operating costs but shall be separately calculated and paid to the royalty owner.

H. The Board shall resolve all disputes arising among gas or oil operators regarding the amount and reasonableness of well operation costs. The Board shall, by regulation, establish allowable types of costs that may be shared in pooled gas or oil operations.

1982, c. 347, § 45.1-302; 1987, c. 452; 1989, c. 529; 1990, c. 92, § 45.1-361.21; 1995, c. 269; 1996, c. 854; 2006, c. 498; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1621. (Effective October 1, 2021) Coalbed methane gas; ownership.

No conveyance, reservation, or exception of coal shall be deemed to include coalbed methane gas. Nothing in this section shall affect a coal operator's right to vent coalbed methane gas for safety purposes or release coalbed methane gas in connection with mining operations. The provisions of this section shall not affect any settlement of any dispute, or any judgment or governmental order, as to the ownership or development of coalbed methane gas made or entered into prior to April 13, 2010.

2010, cc. 730, 762, § 45.1-361.21:1; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1622. (Effective October 1, 2021) Pooling of interests for coalbed methane gas wells; conflicting claims to ownership.

A. If there are conflicting claims to the ownership of coalbed methane gas, the Board, upon application from any claimant, shall enter an order pooling all interests or estates in the coalbed methane gas-drilling unit for the development and operation thereof.

B. In addition to the provisions of § 45.2-1620, the following provisions shall apply to the order provided in subsection A:

1. Simultaneously with the filing of such application, the gas or oil owner applying for the order shall provide notice pursuant to the provisions of § 45.2-1618 to each person identified by the applicant as a potential owner of an interest in the coalbed methane gas underlying the tract that is the subject of the hearing.

2. The Board shall cause to be established an escrow account into which the payment for costs or proceeds attributable to the conflicting interests shall be deposited and held for the interest of the claimants.

3. The coalbed methane gas well operator shall deposit into the escrow account any money paid by a person claiming a contested ownership interest as a participating operator's share of costs pursuant to the provisions of § 45.2-1620 and the order of the Board.

4. The coalbed methane gas well operator shall deposit into the escrow account one-eighth of all proceeds attributable to the conflicting interests plus all proceeds in excess of ongoing operational expenses attributable to a participating or nonparticipating operator as provided for under § 45.2-1620 and the order of the Board.

5. The Board shall order payment of principal and accrued interest, less escrow account fees, from the escrow account to conflicting claimants only after (i) a final decision of a court of competent jurisdiction adjudicating the ownership of coalbed methane gas as between them is issued, (ii) a determination is reached by an arbitrator pursuant to § 45.2-1623, or (iii) an agreement is reached among all claimants owning conflicting estates in the tract in question or any undivided interest therein. Upon receipt of an affidavit from conflicting claimants affirming such decision, determination, or agreement, the designated operator shall, within 30 days, file with the Board a petition for disbursement of funds on behalf of the conflicting claimants. The petition shall include a detailed accounting of all funds deposited in escrow that are subject to the proposed disbursement. The amount to be paid to the conflicting claimants shall be determined on the basis of (a) the percentage of ownership interest of the conflicting claimants as shown in the operator's supplemental filing, made part of the pooling order that established the escrow account; (b) the operator's records of deposits attributable to those tracts for which funds are being requested; and (c) the records of the escrow account for the coalbed methane gas-drilling unit. The petition for disbursement shall be placed on the first available Board docket. Funds shall be disbursed within 30 days after the Board decision and receipt by the Department of all documentation required by the Board. The interests of any cotenants that have not been resolved by the agreement or by judicial decision shall remain in the escrow account.

6. Any person who does not make an election under the pooling order shall be deemed, subject to a final legal determination of ownership, to have leased his gas or oil interest to the coalbed methane gas well operator as provided in the pooling order.

1990, c. 92, § 45.1-361.22; 1999, c. 122; 2006, c. 498; 2010, c. 442; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1623. (Effective October 1, 2021) Conflicting claims of ownership; arbitration.

A. The Board shall enter an order requiring that the matter of disputed ownership be submitted to arbitration and notify the circuit court in the jurisdiction in which the majority of the subject tract is located (i) upon written request from all claimants to the ownership of coalbed methane gas related to the subject tract under § 45.2-1622; (ii) upon receipt of an affidavit executed by all such claimants affirming that there is no other known surface owner, gas or oil owner, coal owner, mineral owner, or operator of a gas storage field certificated by the State Corporation Commission having an interest underlying the subject tract; (iii) after a hearing noticed pursuant to subsection B of § 45.2-1618; and (iv) upon a determination by the Department whether sufficient funds are available to pay the estimated costs of the arbitration pursuant to subsection F. Within 30 days of receipt of the notice from the Board, the circuit court shall appoint an attorney from the list maintained by the Department pursuant to subsection C or, at the discretion of the court, another attorney meeting the qualifications set forth in subsection C. Prior to his appointment as an arbitrator of a particular dispute, the attorney shall certify to the circuit court that he has not derived more than 10 percent of his income during any of the preceding three years from any (a) claimants asserting ownership or rights in the subject tract or (b) affiliated entities or immediate family members of such claimants. If the attorney cannot provide such certification, he shall notify the circuit court and he will be disqualified from serving as arbitrator for that particular dispute.

B. The Department shall send notice to all claimants if it determines that there are insufficient funds to pay the estimated costs of the arbitration pursuant to subsection F. The claimants may, by unanimous agreement, proceed with the arbitration process, notify the Board of such agreement, and bear the costs to the extent of the insufficiency. If the parties do not agree, the arbitration shall be delayed until such funds are available.

C. To be qualified as an arbitrator, a candidate shall (i) be an attorney licensed in the Commonwealth; (ii) have at least 10 years of experience in real estate law, including substantial expertise in mineral title examination; and (iii) disclose to the Board whether he has been engaged within the preceding three years by any person in a matter subject to the jurisdiction of the Board or the Department under this chapter. The Department shall solicit applications from attorneys meeting the qualifications set forth in this subsection and maintain a list of attorneys qualifying as arbitrators for use by the circuit courts. The Department shall update its list at least once annually. To maintain qualification, each attorney whose name appears on the list shall update annually his disclosures as set forth in clause (iii).

D. The arbitrator shall determine a time and place for the arbitration hearing and cause written notification of such hearing to be served on each surface owner, gas or oil owner, coal owner, mineral owner, or operator of a gas storage field certificated by the State Corporation Commission having an interest underlying the tract that is the subject of the hearing. Parties shall be served personally or by certified mail, return receipt requested, not less than 14 days before the hearing. Appearance at the hearing waives such party's right to challenge notice. Any party to the arbitration has the right to representation before the arbitrator pursuant to § 8.01-581.05. In accordance with § 8.01-581.06, the arbitrator may issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and for the production of books, records, documents, and other evidence; administer oaths; and, upon application by a party to the arbitration, permit the taking of depositions for use as evidence. The arbitrator shall hear and determine the controversy upon the evidence and consistent with applicable law, notwithstanding the failure of a party to appear at the hearing.

E. The arbitrator shall issue his determination as to the ownership in the coalbed methane gas and entitlement to proceeds held in escrow within six months from the order of the Board requiring the matter be submitted to arbitration, unless a longer period is otherwise agreed to by all parties. Such determination shall be in writing and sent to the Board and to each party to whom notice is required to be given under subsection D.

F. Upon the issuance of the arbitrator's determination of ownership and subject to the availability of funds, the fees and expenses of the arbitration, but not including fees or costs of counsel engaged by the respective claimants or any other costs of the claimants, shall be paid from the accrued interest on general escrow account funds.

G. An arbitrator's determination rendered pursuant to subsection E shall be binding upon the parties, and upon request of any party to the arbitration such determination may be entered as the judgment of the circuit court responsible for appointing the arbitrator under subsection A.

H. Upon application of any party to the arbitration, a determination rendered pursuant to subsection E may be confirmed, vacated, corrected, or appealed pursuant to the grounds set forth in Chapter 21 (§ 8.01-577 et seq.) of Title 8.01.

2010, c. 442, § 45.1-361.22:1; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1624. (Effective October 1, 2021) Release of funds held in escrow or suspense because of conflicting claims to coalbed methane gas.

A. For a coalbed methane gas well that was force-pooled prior to July 1, 2015, the coalbed methane gas well operator shall, on or before January 1, 2016, apply to the Board for the release of the funds in escrow and give written notice of such application to every conflicting claimant identified in the pooling orders, or to the successor of such claimant where the successor is known to the coalbed methane gas well operator or has identified himself to the coalbed methane gas well operator or the Board. Such notice shall be in accordance with the applicable provisions of § 45.2-1618 and, if any unknown person or unlocatable conflicting claimant is subject to escrow, such notice shall also be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county or counties where the drilling unit is located once each week for four successive weeks. The application shall include a detailed accounting in accordance with subdivision B 5 of § 45.2-1622. The Board shall order payment of the principal and accrued interest, less escrow account fees, held in escrow, along with all future royalties attributable to the drilling unit, to each gas claimant identified in the pooling order unless, within 45 days of the coalbed methane gas well operator's notice of its application, the coal claimant provides the Board and the coalbed methane gas well operator with evidence of a proceeding or agreement. The Board, pursuant to its authority granted by § 45.2-1614, may extend the time for filing the application and delay the payment of funds for a gas title conflict, the existence of an unknown gas claimant, the existence of an unlocatable gas claimant, an unresolved gas heirship issue, or any other reason beyond the reasonable control of the coalbed methane gas well operator and shall not order payment if the gas claimant fails to provide the Board with information needed under applicable law or regulation to distribute the funds.

B. For a coalbed methane gas well force-pooled on or after July 1, 2015, the Board, in its pooling order, shall direct the coalbed methane gas well operator to pay royalties to the gas claimant unless the coal claimant provides the coalbed methane gas well operator and the Board with evidence of a proceeding or agreement not later than the time and place of the pooling hearing. The coalbed methane gas well operator shall provide written notice of the hearing to every gas claimant and coal claimant in accordance with § 45.2-1618. However, the Board, pursuant to its authority granted by § 45.2-1614, shall not order the coalbed methane gas well operator to make payment to a gas claimant if there exists any gas title conflict, unknown gas claimant, unlocatable gas claimant, unresolved gas heirship issue, or other reason beyond the reasonable control of the coalbed methane gas well operator or if the gas claimant fails to provide the coalbed methane gas well operator with the information required under applicable law or regulation to pay royalties. If the Board so declines to order payment to be made to a gas claimant, the coalbed methane gas well operator shall provide each affected gas claimant and the Board with written notice of the reason payment is not required to be made in accordance with the applicable provisions of § 45.2-1618. If payment is not required to be made due to the gas claimant's failure to provide needed information under applicable law or regulation, the notice shall identify the information that is needed to enable the payment to be made.

C. For a coalbed methane gas well voluntarily pooled at any time, the coalbed methane gas well operator shall pay royalties, including past royalties held, to each gas claimant unless, within 45 days of the coalbed methane gas well operator's provision of written notice to the coal claimant that the operator will be paying royalties to the gas claimants, the coal claimant provides the coalbed methane gas well operator and each gas claimant with evidence of a proceeding or agreement. For any unit voluntarily pooled before July 1, 2015, the coalbed methane gas well operator shall provide such written notice to each gas claimant and coal claimant on or before January 1, 2016. For any unit voluntarily pooled on or after July 1, 2015, the coalbed methane gas well operator shall provide such written notice to each gas claimant and coal claimant not later than 45 days after production commences. However, the coalbed methane gas well operator shall not be required to make payment to a gas claimant if there exists any gas title conflict, unknown gas claimant, unlocatable gas claimant, unresolved gas heirship issue, or other reason beyond the reasonable control of the coalbed methane gas well operator or if the gas claimant fails to provide the coalbed methane gas well operator with information to process or pay royalties. If the Board so declines to order payment to be made to a gas claimant, the coalbed methane gas well operator shall provide each affected gas claimant with written notice of the reason payment is not required to be made in accordance with the applicable provisions of § 45.2-1618. If payment is not required to be made due to a gas claimant's failure to provide needed information, the notice shall identify the information that is needed to enable the payment to be made.

D. Any pending judicial or arbitration proceeding shall be pursued by the coal claimant with diligence and shall not be voluntarily dismissed or nonsuited without the consent of the gas claimant. No default judgment shall be entered against a gas claimant in such proceeding. Royalties shall be paid as determined by the final order in the proceeding. A prevailing gas claimant may recover from the nonprevailing coal claimant reasonable costs and attorney fees if such gas claimant substantially prevails on the merits of the case and the coal claimant's position is not substantially justified.

E. A coalbed methane gas well operator paying funds to a gas claimant in accordance with this section shall have no liability to a coal claimant for the payments made by the coalbed methane gas well operator to a gas claimant.

F. This section shall not operate to extinguish any other right or cause of action or defense thereto, including any claim for an accounting or claim under § 8.01-31. Nothing in this section shall create, confer, or impose a fiduciary duty.

2015, c. 396, § 45.1-361.22:2; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1625. (Effective October 1, 2021) Appeals of the Director's decisions; notices; hearings and orders.

A. With the exception of an aggrieved permit applicant, no person shall have standing to appeal a decision of the Director to the Board concerning a new permit application unless such person has previously filed an objection with the Director pursuant to the provisions of § 45.2-1637.

B. When a person applies for a hearing to appeal a decision of the Director to the Board, the Board shall, at least 20 days prior to the hearing, give notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the person making the appeal and, if different, to the gas or oil operator subject to the appeal.

C. Upon submittal of the petition for appeal of a decision of the Director to the Board, the Director shall forward to the Board (i) the permit application or order and associated documents; (ii) all required notices; and (iii) the written objections, proposals, and claims recorded during the informal fact-finding hearing.

D. In any appeal involving a permit for a new well that was objected to (i) pursuant to the provisions of § 45.2-1611 or 45.2-1612 or (ii) by a gas storage field operator who asserts that the proposed well work will adversely affect the operation of a gas storage field certificated by the State Corporation Commission, the filing of a petition for appeal shall stay any permit until the case is decided by the Board or the stay is dissolved by a court of record. However, in an appeal by a gas storage field operator, such automatic stay shall not apply to any oil, gas, or coalbed methane well completed more than 100 feet above the cap rock above the storage stratum. In any other appeal, the Director may order the permit or other decision stayed for good cause shown until the case is decided by the Board or the stay is dissolved by a court of record. An appeal based on an alleged risk of danger to any person not engaged in the gas or oil operations shall be prima facie proof of good cause for a stay.

E. The Board shall conduct all hearings under this section in accordance with the formal litigated issues hearing provisions of Article 3 (§ 2.2-4018 et seq.) of the Administrative Process Act. However, any person to whom notice is required to be given pursuant to subsection B shall have standing to be heard at the hearing. The Board shall render its decision on such appeals within 30 days of the hearing's closing date and shall provide notification of its decision to all parties pursuant to the provisions of the Administrative Process Act (§ 2.2-4000 et seq.).

1990, c. 92, § 45.1-361.23; 1997, c. 759; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1626. (Effective October 1, 2021) Enforcement.

The Director shall enforce the provisions of this article pursuant to the provisions of Article 3 (§ 45.2-1629 et seq.). In addition, if any person violates or threatens to violate any provision of this article, regulation adopted thereunder, or order of the Board, the Board may maintain suit to restrain any such violation or threatened violation.

1982, c. 347, § 45.1-306; 1990, c. 92, § 45.1-361.24; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1627. (Effective October 1, 2021) Standing when Director or Board fails to act.

If the Director or Board fails to take enforcement action within 10 days of the Board's receipt of a petition alleging that the petitioner is or will be adversely affected by a violation or threatened violation of any provision of this article, regulation adopted thereunder, or order of the Board, the petitioner shall have standing to file a complaint in the appropriate circuit court. The Board, in addition to the person violating or threatening to violate the provision of this article, regulation adopted thereunder, or order of the Board, shall be made a party to any such action.

1982, c. 347, § 45.1-307; 1990, c. 92; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

§ 45.2-1628. (Effective October 1, 2021) Recording of orders.

The Inspector shall cause a true copy of any order entered by the Board that establishes a drilling unit or pools any interests to be recorded in the office of the clerk of the circuit court of each locality wherein any portion of the relevant drilling unit is located. Such order shall be recorded in the record book in which gas or oil leases are normally recorded. The sole charge for recordation shall be a tax equal to $10 plus $1 per page of the order. From the time noted on the recordation by the clerk, the recordation shall be notice of the order to all persons.

1982, c. 347, § 45.1-308; 1990, c. 92, § 45.1-361.25; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.