The Oklahoma Surface Damage Act addresses a landowner’s surface claims for damage and pollution to land that results from energy exploration. Oklahoma City Attorney Robert R. Robles represents surface owners of land in their claims for damages or pollution against operators involved in energy exploration.

The Surface Damage Act

Historically, Oklahoma real property has been separated into surface and mineral estates. As exploration grew, the law became increasingly murky on the rights and liabilities of the owners of the two estates. As a result, the Surface Damage Act was enacted in 1982. Energy explorers must now enter into good-faith negotiations with surface owners to reasonably calculate the amount of damage to the surface estate before they begin drilling on it. Damage is based on the fair market value of the real estate immediately before and after exploration is concluded. If no such agreement can be reached, a judicial procedure is outlined to determine the damage. The act doesn’t apply to seismic or other geophysical exploration activities.

Groundwater and subsurface pollution

Although the act contemplates damages for surface pollution, damages under other legal theories in Oklahoma courts might also be recovered. Although encouraged, caution must be used when doing this because different technical legal procedures might be required.

Surface use agreements

You might want to look into entering into a surface use agreement with the owner of the mineral estate. You might be able to agree on what are known as liquidated damages in advance and avoid the expense of litigation. Most companies want to negotiate possible surface damages as they don’t want the burden and expense of protracted litigation. As the issues involved in these negotiations are far too complex for nearly any surface owner to contemplate, it’s recommended that they have an attorney that is aware of and understands these issues.
Robert R. Robles is an oil and gas attorney in Oklahoma City with over 30 years of contract and courtroom experience. He’s fluent in titles, mineral rights, the Surface Damage Act and other state and federal laws that protect the rights of surface owners. Mr. Robles is dedicated and experienced. His focus on results has made him highly respected and successful in Oklahoma City. Contact Robert R. Robles at 405-232-7980 for a free consultation to discuss practical solutions to your surface damage concerns.