“Anti-washout” clauses prevent certain oil and gas royalties from lapsing over time. Recently, in Yowell v. Granite Operating Co., 557 S.W.3d 794 (Tex. App.—Amarillo 2018, pet. granted), the Texas Court of Appeals for the Seventh District affirmed the trial court’s determination that an “anti-washout” provision in a mineral assignment did not extend an overriding royalty interest (“ORRI”) to new leases. The Court effectively nullified the provision because it violated the Rule Against Perpetuities. The Texas Supreme Court granted Yowell’s petition for review, setting oral arguments for January 2020.
Oil and gas leases usually include royalty provisions requiring the lessor pay a percentage of revenue (a royalty) to the owner of the mineral rights. Production costs are almost always deducted before a royalty is calculated, but when the royalty vests can affect which production costs are deducted before calculation. The Texas Supreme Court recently held that post-production costs were also properly deducted from overriding royalty payments where the interest vested “into the pipeline” in Burlington Resources Oil & Gas Company, L.P. v. Texas Crude Energy, LLC (No. 17-0266).
Many Texas families and companies have been built on the back of oil and gas production. In Texas, mineral rights—the entitlement to explore and produce subsurface minerals, like oil and gas—can be separated from surface rights and sold, leased, gifted, split or otherwise conveyed relatively freely. The complexities of mineral rights leases were the focus of a recent $41 million judgment against EP Energy E&P Company, LP, a Texas oil and gas company. The case is Storey Minerals, Ltd., et al. v. EP Energy E&P Company, L.P., Case No. 001-36253, in the 81st Judicial District of La Salle, County, Texas.
Occidental Petroleum’s acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum was huge news in the oil and gas industry. The $38 billion sale was a two-year ordeal that pitted Occidental against energy giant Chevron in a bidding war. While many applauded Occidental for the acquisition, others weren’t so sure. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn has filed a lawsuit seeking access to Occidental’s books and records relating to the Anadarko acquisition. Icahn alleges the acquisition “raises very real questions about competence” due to the hefty price tag.
The oil and gas industry is often considered the backbone of the Texas economy. As a state rich in resources, the fluctuations of the oil and gas industry are felt deeply, and an optimistic industry outlook is always welcome. Upswings in the oil and gas industry, however, are frequently accompanied by upswings in related litigation.