In our last post, we began looking at a proposed change to state drilling law that would allow landowners’ to better protect their property from the natural gas drilling industry and local governments’ to better protect water supplies from the effects of hydraulic fracturing.
As we noted last time, it is important for landowners to understand how they can go about protecting their rights. This can be done not only through pursuing protections under government regulations, but also by making use of property law protections. According to recent research from Stanford University, one tool that could prove very useful for landowners looking to protect their property from fracking is the conservation easement.
A conservation easement is an agreement between a landowner and a government agency or land trust which allows the landowner to continue using the property while placing permanent limitations on how the land is used in order to protect it from potential threats to its resources and conservation value. The landowners in these agreements voluntarily agree to sell or donate the right to use a piece of property in a specific way, often agreeing to not develop the piece of property.
Tax easements can be tailored to focus on mineral extraction, for those who own mineral rights. For those who own the surface land as well, they could tailor the easement to retain the right to develop the surface with structures. There could be tax benefits to such easements, as well.
The ability to establish such as easement depends on the state property law statutes, and those who are open to the possibility should contact an experienced attorney to have their situation evaluated and to determine their options for protecting their property.