Robert J. Burnett

Attorney Profile

Top Rated Energy & Natural Resources Attorney in Pittsburgh, PA

Houston Harbaugh, P.C.
 | Three Gateway Center, 401 Liberty Avenue, 22nd Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Phone: 412-288-2221
Fax: 412-281-4499
Selected to Super Lawyers: 2019
Licensed Since: 1995
Practice Areas:
  • Energy & Natural Resources
Attorney Profile

Attorney Robert J. Burnett is a partner with the Houston Harbaugh, P.C., law firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he also chairs the firm's Oil and Gas Practice Group. Representing the rights and interests of landowners and royalty owners throughout the state, Mr. Burnett focuses his practice primarily on complex commercial litigation involving a wide range of disputes for clients in the oil and gas industries.

Along with advocating on behalf of his clients' needs both inside and outside of the courtroom, Mr. Burnett also assists his clients with negotiating new leases, modifying or overriding existing royalty and participation agreements, lease negotiation and drafting, development and production issues, implied covenants and contract issues, surface access and pipeline right of ways, and more.

A top-rated attorney with more than 25 years of legal experience, Mr. Burnett has established himself as a leader in his field, and he has written extensively and conducted lectures and seminars across his region on a variety of legal topics. He also serves as Director of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Association of Royalty Owners as well as a member of its Legislative Committee.

Among his other professional affiliations, Mr. Burnett is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Shale Energy Law Committee and the organization's Civil Litigation and Environmental and Energy Law sections. He is also an active member of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association and the Allegheny County Bar Association.

A 1991 graduate of John Carroll University, Mr. Burnett obtained his Juris Doctor cum laude from Duquesne University School of Law in 1994. He is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the Western and Middle Districts of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

Recognized for his impeccable professionalism, high ethical standards and exceptional legal abilities, Mr. Burnett holds a Martindale-Hubbell Distinguished* peer review rating, and the Pittsburgh Business Times named him a Who's Who in Energy from 2011 to 2017.

*AV®, AV Preeminent®, Martindale-Hubbell Distinguished and Martindale-Hubbell Notable are certification marks used under license in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell® is the facilitator of a peer review rating process. Ratings reflect the anonymous opinions of members of the bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Rating™ fall into two categories – legal ability and general ethical standards.

 
Practice Areas
Lawyer Practice Area Pie Chart

Energy & Natural Resources (100%)

Selections

Selected to Super Lawyers for 1 yearsbottom-image

Super Lawyers: 2019

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About Robert Burnett

Admitted: 1995, Pennsylvania

Professional Webpage: https://www.hh-law.com/Professionals/Robert-Burnett.shtml

Honors/Awards:

  • Mr. Burnett has been selected to Who's Who in Energy by the Pittsburgh Business Times every year since 2011., Pittsburgh Business Times
  • Mr. Burnett has a BV rating, signifying a very high level of professional excellence, through the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating System.

Bar/Professional Activity:

  • Member Allegheny County Bar Association
  • Member National Association of Royalty Owners 
  • Member Pennsylvania Bar Association (Civil Litigation Section and Environmental and Energy Law Section) 
  • Member Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association
  • Director Pennsylvania Chapter of National Association of Royalty Owners
  • Member Pennsylvania Bar Association's "Shale Energy Law Committee"
  • Course Planner Pennsylvania Business Institute Oil and Gas Law Colloquium
  • Third Circuit Court of Appeals
  • U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
  • Board of Directors, National Association of Royalty Owners Member
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
  • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • Executive Committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute’s premier oil and gas law program, the annual "Oil and Gas Law Colloquium."
  • Pennsylvania Bar Institute’s "Oil and Gas Law Advisory Committee"
  • Member - Pennsylvania Bar Association (Shale Energy Law Committee, Civil Litigation Section and Environmental and Energy Law Section) 
  • Member - Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association Member
  • Member - American Bar Association (Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Section) 
  • Member, Allegheny County Bar Association

Scholarly Lectures/Writings:

  • Blossburg Landowners Meeting, "Lease Termination Issues", June 7, 2012 | Blossburg, PA
  • Gas Leases and Estate Planning Techniques to Protect the Future of Your Client’s Mineral Rights – Pennsylvania Bar Institute
  • Emerging Issues in PA Oil/Gas Law: Act 66/Forced Pooling, Post Production Costs, Sabella Decision
  • Northeast Pennsylvania Board of Realtors (Tioga County), "Emerging Issues in Pennsylvania Oil/Gas Law", June 21, 2012 – Wellsboro, PA
  • The "Morning Show" with PJ Maloney on KQV Radio 1410 AM, "Oil/Gas Lease Termination Issues", June 27, 2012 | Pittsburgh, PA
  • Emerging Issues in PA Oil/Gas Law, July 19, 2012 | Grove City, PA
  • 2012 PA Gas Expo, "We Know the Drill: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know" and "Issues Related to Newly Enacted Act 13", July 25, 2012 | Indiana, PA
  • 4th Annual Oil and Gas Law Colloquium – Pennsylvania Bar Institute, "Implied Covenants", September 11-12, 2012 | State College, PA
  • Hydraulic Fracturing, Horizontal Drilling and the Modern Oil Lease, Hydraulic Fracturing, Horizontal Drilling and Development of the Marcellus Shale – The Seminar Group, November 18, 2015 | Pittsburgh, PA
  • Property Rights: Lessor/Lessee Disputes, Hydraulic Fracturing Disputes and Litigation – Half Moon Seminars, August 28, 2015 | Pittsburgh, PA
  • Bad Faith Pooling, 7th Annual Oil and Gas Law Colloquium – Pennsylvania Bar Institute, September 24 – 25, 2015 | Pittsburgh, PA
  • Current Litigation Issues Concerning Post-Production Costs, 2015 National Association of Royalty Owners 35th Anniversary National Convention, October 15 – 17, 2015 | Las Vegas, NV
  • Local Zoning Ordinances May Hinder Oil/Gas Development, 10.2014
  • Ultimate Guide to Oil and Gas Title Law, National Business Institute, December 9 – 10, 2015 | Mechanicsburg, PA
  • Streams, Roads and Railroads: Who Owns the Oil and Gas Rights Anyway?, 2016 PA NARO Annual Convention, March 30 – April 1, 2016 | State College, PA
  • Shale Energy Leadership Organization Summit II, April 28, 2016 | Hermitage, PA
  • Has Forced Pooling Come to Pennsylvania With SB 259?, PA Law Weekly, 08.13.13
  • Is Pa. Becoming a First-Marketable-Product Jurisdiction?, PA Law Weekly, 10.15.13
  • The Status Quo Restored. The background of the decision that put the ‘Dunham Rule’ back in place., The Pennsylvania Lawyer, September/October.2013
  • Failure to Tender Production Royalty Did Not Trigger Forfeiture Clause, PA Law Weekly, 12.31.13
  • Superior Court Breathes New Life Into Guaranteed Minimum Royalty Act, PA Law Weekly, 2.25.14
  • Pipeline Operators: Public Utility or Pipeline Futility, PA Law Weekly, 8.19.14
  • Pennsylvania Bar Institute Webinar, May 3, 2018
  • PUC Decision Suggests Pipeline Operator Has Public Utility Status, PA Law Weekly, 10.28.14
  • Good News for Landowners Means Bad News for Trespassers, PA Law Weekly, 12.16.14
  • HB 557 and the Deduction Of Post-Production Costs, PA NARO Town Hall Meeting, December 11, 2017 | Claysville, PA
  • The New Pennsylvania Association of Realtors’ Oil/Gas Forms: What Real Estate Agents Need to Know, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, January 23, 2018 | Cranberry, PA
  • When is a Lease Actually Held?, Town Hall Meeting, January 30, 2018 | Liberty, PA
  • Residential Real Estate and the New OGM Addendum Form, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, March 13, 2018 | Butler, PA
  • The Myth of Held by Production: How and Why Leases can be Extended Without a Producing Well, PA NARO Annual Convention, March 21-23, 2018 | State College, PA
  • When is a Lease Actually Held?, North Central Pennsylvania Realtors Association quarterly meeting, April 10, 2018 | Wellsboro, PA
  • West Coast Landman’s Institute, "Oil and Gas Leases in the Era of Horizontal Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing"
  • To Drill or Not to Drill – Does Pennsylvania Recognize an Implied Covenant of Further Exploration?, 02.2011
  • Temporary Cessation of Production: How much time does a producer have under Pennsylvania law?, 03.2011
  • The Accommodation Doctrine: Balancing the Interests of the Surface Owner and the Mineral Owner, 04.2011
  • Adverse Possession – Can Surface Owner Acquire Title to Gas Formations by Mere Passage of Time?, 06.2011
  • Subsurface Trespass – Can They Take the Gas Under My Property Without a Lease?, 07.2011
  • Non-Production During Secondary Term Results in Termination of Lease, 11.2011
  • Who’s Entitled to Free Gas?, 01.2012
  • Marcellus Shale for Landowners’ Representatives, California University of Pennsylvania, December 12, 2014 | Cal U Center for Innovation
  • Fuel Yourself with Knowledge – PA NARO, January 24, 2015 | West Middlesex, PA
  • The Attorney’s Guide to the Oil and Gas Lease – Pennsylvania Bar Institute, February 10, 2015 | Mechanicsburg, PA, February 26, 2015 | Pittsburgh, PA
  • 2015 PA NARO Annual Convention, "Facing the Challenges", March 26-27 | State College, PA
  • Oil and Gas Law Update: Recent Decisions Impacting Oil and Gas Practice, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, April 2, 2015 | Live Webinar
  • Marcellus Shale: Where are we now?, California University of Pennsylvania, April 16, 2015 | Cal U Center for Innovation
  • PA NARO Town Hall Meeting, May 27, 2015 | Washington, PA
  • Preliminary Operations Not Enough To Extend Lease into Secondary Term, 12.2011
  • Not Your Father’s Oil and Gas Lease, 06.2013
  • Federal Court in Pittsburgh Allows Lease Cancellation Suit to Move Forward, 05.2012
  • Federal Court Rules that Assignment of Oil/Gas Lease May Not Extinguish Liability of Original Lessee, 08.2012
  • Federal Court in Scranton Rules That Litigation Filed by Landowner Did Not "Repudiate" the Lease, 08.2012
  • Can the Payment of a Shut-In Royalty Maintain an Oil/Gas Lease Indefinitely?, 10.2012
  • Marcellus Shale Gas is Not a Mineral. What Does This Mean for Lease-holders?, 04.2013
  • The MoneyLine Show with Host George Dukovich on 104.7 FM, "Senate Bill 259", September 21, 2013 | Pittsburgh, PA
  • Pennsylvania Superior Court Rules Driller had no Implied Obligation to Develop Deeper Formations, 07.2013
  • Radio Smart Talk with Host Scott Lamar on WITF Radio 89.5 and 93.3 FM, "Senate Bill 259", July 15, 2013 | Pittsburgh, PA
  • 5th Annual Oil and Gas Law Colloquium – Pennsylvania Bar Institute, "Leasing and Lease Extensions", September 17-18, 2013 | State College, PA
  • West Virginia Supreme Court Declares that Minimum Royalty Statute Does Not Authorize the Deduction of Post-Production Costs, 12.2016
  • 2nd Annual AAPL Appalachian Land Institute, "Oil & Gas Leases in Era of Horizontal Drilling", October 3-4, 2013 | Morgantown, WV
  • Allegheny Chapter CPCU Society All Industry Day, "Emerging Issues in PA Oil/Gas Law", October 16, 2013 | Pittsburgh, PA
  • 2013 NARO National Convention, "Mineral Leasing, Surface Use ‘Watch the Fine Print'", October 31 – November 2, 2013 | Columbus, OH
  • Pennsylvania Landowners May Not Own Oil and Gas Rights Under Rivers and Streams, 04.2016
  • Driller Has No Obligation to Pay Royalty on Lost Gas, 05.2016
  • Pooling Clause Not Necessary: West Virginia Court Finds Implied Right to Pool Exists Where Lease Silent, 05.2016
  • HB 1391: Putting Teeth Back in Pennsylvania’s Minimum Royalty Statute, 08.2016
  • Ohio Supreme Court Declines to Adopt Blanket "At the Well" Rule, 11.2016
  • West Virginia Moves to Prohibit Drillers From Taking Deductions Which Reduce Net Royalty Below 12.5% 03.2018
  • The Difference Between a "Royalty" and a "Royalty Interest" Can Be Confusing and Costly For Landowners, 12.2016
  • West Virginia Supreme Court to Reconsider Landmark Decision in Leggett v. EQT Production Company, 02.2017
  • Landowners Beware: Warranty Clause in Oil and Gas Lease Can Obligate Landowner to Repay Signing Bonus, 03.2017
  • Oil and Gas Title Law A-Z, National Business Institute, June 15, 2016 | Pittsburgh, PA
  • The Impact of Marcellus Shale on Residential Real Estate: What Real Estate Agents Need to Know, August 24, 2016 | Bethel Park, PA
  • HB 1391, PA NARO Town Hall Meeting, September 13, 2016 | Washington, PA
  • Municipal Ownership and Regulation of Oil & Gas – Are you Wearing Two Hats?, Allegheny County and Western Pennsylvania Association of Township Commissioners Annual Conference, September 17, 2016 | Seven Springs, PA
  • Unique and Complicated Issues That Confront Realtors in Completing the OGM addendum, November 15, 2016 | North Central Pennsylvania Board of Realtors | Wellsboro, PA, November 10, 2016 | Berkshire Hathaway Home Services | Peters Township, PA, October 17, 2016 | Berkshire Hathaway Home Services | Castle Shannon, PA
  • PA NARO Annual Convention, March 29 – 31 2017| State College, PA
  • Will That Title Wash Keep Your Oil/Gas Title Clean? Status of PA Title Wash After Herder Springs and Cornwall Mountain, April 10, 2017 | Waynesburg, PA
  • "Hydraulic Fracturing Issues in Oil & Gas Leases", 3rd Annual Hydraulic Fracking Conference – The Seminar Group, February 27 – 28, 2014 | Santa Barbara, CA
  • Pennsylvania Superior Court Rejects Rule of Capture in Subsurface Trespass Suit, 04.2018
  • West Virginia Jury Finds That Eqt Improperly Calculated Landowners’ Royalty On Shale Gas, 10.2018
  • Claim Based On Implied Covenant To Market Gas To Move Forward In Federal Royalty Litigation, 11.2018
  • Federal District Court In Pennsylvania Allows Royalty Claim To Move Forward, 01.2019
  • Murphy Exploration v. Adams: Texas Supreme Court Suggests That Horizontal Well Bore Will Not Drain Hydrocarbons From Adjacent Tract, 02.2019
  • Houston Harbaugh, P.c Files "amicus Curiae Brief’ On Behalf Of The Pennsylvania Chapter Of The National Association Of Royalty Owners In Briggs, Et Al V. Southwestern Energy (63 Map 2018), 03.2019
  • Oklahoma Federal Court Rules That Driller Must Pay Royalty On Fuel Gas, 04.2019
  • Sixth Circuit Rules That Driller Must Pay Royalties On Natural Gas Liquids, 05.2019
  • "Leasing and Lease Extensions", Best of the Oil and Gas Law Colloquium – Pennsylvania Bar Institute, January 23, 2014 | Pittsburgh, PA
  • A Possible Blueprint for Landowners Challenging Pipeline Companies, PA Law Weekly, 06.16.15 
  • "Lease Expiration and Termination Issues", NARO PA Convention, March 27-28, 2014, State College, PA
  • The David Madiera Show on 94.3 FM "The Talker", Interview regarding HB 1684, March 8, 2014, State College, PA
  • "Emerging Issues in Pennsylvania Oil & Gas", Pennsylvania Association of Realtors Shale Gas Summit, April 24 – 25, 2014, Pittsburgh, PA
  • YPE Energy Training Series, Gas Lease Termination Issues, June 5, 2014, Washington, PA
  • "Oil and Gas Leases in the Era of Horizontal Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing", Texas Land Institute, September 22, 2014, Houston, TX
  • Not All is Quiet on the Quiet Title Front, PA Law Weekly, 02.09.15
  • Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells – More Than Just a Rusty Eyesore, 05.2015
  • PBA Family Law Section-Winter Meeting 2013 – Pennsylvania Bar Institute, "Marcellus Shale: Practical and Complex Tips for the Family Law Dealing with Mineral Rights", January 18-20, 2013 | Pittsburgh, PA
  • Legislation Revived to Protect Royalty Owners in Pennsylvania, 06.24.15
  • Landowners May Face Difficult Burden Regarding Intermingled Gas, PA Law Weekly, 08.11.15  
  • Court Rules Severance Tax Does Not Increase Value Of Shale Gas, Therefore Not A Deductible Post-Production Cost, 09.2015
  • Is the Implied Covenant of Reasonable Development Irrelevant? PA Law Weekly, 10.20.15
  • Ohio Supreme Court Observes That Driller Cannot Maintain Lease Indefinitely by Paying Delay Rentals, 02.2016
  • Federal Court in Pittsburgh Questions Applicability of Kilmer Decision, 03.2016
  • The Robinson Township Decision and a Heightened Standard of Care For Municipal Leasing, Greene County Association of Township Officials 
  • The Impact of Marcellus Shale on Residential Real Estate: What Real Estate Agents Need to Know, Butler County Realtors Association, Bulter, PA, April 20, 2017
  • Equitable Distribution Of Oil, Gas And Mineral Rights, Allegheny County Bar Association Family Law Section, Pittsburgh, PA, May 8, 2017
  • PA House Bill 557 and the Deduction of Post-Production Costs, PA NARO Town Hall Meeting, Burgettstown, PA, May 15, 2017
  • The New Pennsylvania Association of Realtors’ Oil/Gas Forms: What Real Estate Agents Need to Know, Bethel Park, PA, September 21, 2017 
  • PA Legislative Update: HB 557 and the Deduction Of Post-Production Costs, PA NARO Town Hall Meeting, Burgettstown, PA, October 2, 2017
  • Municipal Leasing of Oil and Gas Rights, Washington County Association of Township Officials Annual Convention, Washington, PA, October 5, 2017
  • The New Pennsylvania Association of Realtors’ Oil/Gas Forms: What Real Estate Agents Need to Know, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Pittsburgh, PA, November 8, 2017
  • The Marcellus Shale Seminar Series, "Emerging Issues in PA Oil/Gas Law", October 10, 2012 | Greensburg, PA
  • The MoneyLine Show with Host George Dukovich on 104.7 FM, "Emerging Oil/Gas Issues", October 28, 2012 | Pittsburgh, PA
  • "We Know the Drill", June 26, 2013 | Indiana, PA
  • Best of the Oil and Gas Law Colloquium – Pennsylvania Bar Institute, "Implied Covenants", January 29, 2013 | Pittsburgh,PA
  • 2013 NARO PA Convention, "The Implied Covenant to Market Gas vs. The Shut-In Royalty Clause: How Long Can the Well Be Shut-In?", March 28-29, 2013 | State College, PA
  • 4th Law of Shale Plays Conference, "Oil & Gas Leases in Era of Horizontal Drilling", June 6-7, 2013 | Fort Worth, TX
  • Oklahoma Federal Court Rules That Driller Must Pay Royalty On Fuel Gas 
  • New Legislation May Allow Drillers to Revive Expired Oil and Gas Leases, 11.2017
  • Ohio Supreme Court Declines to Recognize Implied Covenant of Further Exploration, 01.2018
  • Tenth Circuit Rules That Obligation to Pay Royalty on Fuel Gas Depends on Lease Language, 02.2018
  • West Virginia Moves to Prohibit Drillers From Taking Deductions Which Reduce Net Royalty Below 12.5%,  03.2018
  • Pennsylvania Superior Court Rejects Rule of Capture in Subsurface Trespass Suit, 04.2018
  • West Virginia Jury Finds That Eqt Improperly Calculated Landowners’ Royalty On Shale Gas, 10.2018
  • Claim Based On Implied Covenant To Market Gas To Move Forward In Federal Royalty Litigation,  11.2018
  • Murphy Exploration v. Adams: Texas Supreme Court Suggests That Horizontal Well Bore Will Not Drain Hydrocarbons From Adjacent Tract, 02.2019
  • Houston Harbaugh, P.c Files "amicus Curiae Brief’ On Behalf Of The Pennsylvania Chapter Of The National Association Of Royalty Owners In Briggs, Et Al V. Southwestern Energy (63 Map 2018) 
  • Lecturer at Pennsylvania Bar Institute oil and gas programs
  • Sixth Circuit Rules That Driller Must Pay Royalties On Natural Gas Liquids 
  • 3rd and 4th Annual Oil and Gas Law Colloquium. The Colloquium is a two-day conference that addresses emerging oil and gas issues in Pennsylvania law. Robert presented sessions on Implied Covenants in oil and gas leases. , Faculty, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, 2011
  • As faculty member, Robert presented the basics of oil and gas leases, with a thorough review of significant lease clauses., Faculty Member, Fundamentals of Oil and Gas Law, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, 2012

Transactions:

  • Representation of landowner with 1400 acres in dispute with gas operator regarding bad faith pooling.
  • Representation of landowner in lease litigation regarding the proper application of shut-in royalty clause and other lease-saving mechanisms.
  • Representation of gas companies in Ohio against landowner demands for increased royalties.
  • Representation of family limited partnership in negotiating oil/gas lease with parcel in excess of 1,500 acres.
  • Representation of mineral owners in quiet title action against a surface owner claiming title to hydrocarbons through adverse possession.
  • Representation of landowner with 4,000+ acres in dispute with gas operator regarding lease expiration.
  • Representation of landowner in dispute with gas operator regarding a sub-surface trespass occasioned by horizontal drilling.
  • Representation of a landowner who faced mine subsidence, contaminated water and other environmental concerns to negotiate a revised lease with a gas and coal company.
  • Representation of Fortune 500 company in connection with title dispute arising out of ownership of oil/gas estate.
  • Representation of landowner in pipeline eminent domain action arising under the Natural Gas Act.
  • Representation of landowner in connection with water contamination claims caused by adjacent drilling operations.
  • Representation of landowner with 4,000+ acres in dispute regarding the application of the gas storage clause and the ability to hold lease beyond primary term.
  • Representation of an equipment supply company in a dispute with a gas company regarding land access rights.
  • Representation of school district in negotiating non-surface access oil/gas lease.
  • Representation of landowner in litigation with contaminated water supply caused by nearby drilling operations.

Representative Clients:

  • Individuals and businesses who are landowners in the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania.

Other Outstanding Achievements:

  • Federal District Court In Pennsylvania Allows Royalty Claim To Move Forward, 01.2019

Newsletters:

  • Over the last 18 months natural gas operators from all over the world have converged on Western Pennsylvania. Their goal has been to secure new leases from landowners holding valuable mineral rights in the deeper Marcellus Shale formation. This rush to access the Marcellus Shale is now creating tension between landowners with existing oil/gas leases and their respective lessees. The royalty payments generated from these older, shallow well leases pale in comparison to the large signing bonuses and high-volume royalties associated with deeper Marcellus wells. As such, many of these landowners are now trying to “get out” of their existing leases and sign new, potentially more lucrative, Marcellus leases., To Drill or Not to Drill – Does Pennsylvania Recognize an Implied Covenant of Further Exploration? , Oil And Gas
  • The modern producing gas well is a sophisticated and complex piece of equipment. The basic well head itself consists of several meters, valves and other components, each of which is under constant stress and pressure. In addition to the well head, the producing gas well will be connected to an active network of gathering and transmission pipelines. Proper maintenance is a necessary and ongoing activity at any well site. Such maintenance, however, often requires the producer to take the well temporarily out of production. Moreover, unexpected breakdowns can and do occur over the life of a well. These breakdowns inevitably also take the well out of production., Temporary Cessation of Production: How much time does a producer have under Pennsylvania law? , Oil And Gas
  • As the rush to access the Marcellus Shale formation continues, landowners throughout the Commonwealth are learning that their properties may be the next location for a horizontal well site. Given the lucrative signing bonuses being offered, this is welcomed news to some landowners. For those landowners who do not own the underlying mineral formations, however, this news can be troubling and disconcerting.  Such uncertainty is well-founded., The Accommodation Doctrine: Balancing The Interests Of The Surface Owner And The Mineral Owner , Oil And Gas
  • This is a familiar yet troubling question. Imagine that you own 150 acres in southwestern Pennsylvania. You have received offers from several prominent gas producers but have not yet signed a lease. Your neighbor, however, did sign a Marcellus lease a few years ago. A typical Marcellus well pad site was erected about 600 yards from your property line. Hydraulic fracturing operations are now complete and the horizontal well is now producing 15 mcf of gas per week. You were told that the horizontal well bore - which is approximately 6,000 feet below the ground - does not encroach or cross your surface boundary. Nonetheless, you are concerned that your neighbor could be draining gas from underneath your property. If so, can you stop your neighbor from taking "your" gas? As with many oil/gas issues, the answer to this question is based on a unique aspect of oil/gas law: the rule of capture., Subsurface trespass - Can they take the gas under my property without a lease?, Oil And Gas
  • Landowners are often alarmed and angered when they receive word that the oil/gas lease they executed several years ago, after months of intense and personal negotiations, has been assigned to an unknown, unfamiliar gas operator. This anxiety is amplified when the landowner’s phone calls or letters go unanswered, the royalty checks are late or are not made at all and the once well-maintained well pad site is now overgrown and in a state of disrepair. Can the landowner seek redress against the original gas operator?, Federal Court Rules that Assignment of Oil/Gas Lease May Not Extinguish Liability of Original Lessee, Oil And Gas
  • The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently addressed the issue of whether the mere payment of delay rentals can extend a gas lease beyond its primary term. In Hite v. Falcon Partners, et al., 2011 WL 9632 (January 4, 2011), the Superior Court rejected the gas producer’s argument that a non-producing lease can be preserved indefinitely simply by making delay rental payments. In siding with the landowner, the Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s cancellation of the non-producing lease and sent a clear warning to gas operators throughout the Commonwealth. Following Hite, there is no question that the so-called “automatic termination rule” is alive and well in Pennsylvania. As such, landowners and gas operators alike should carefully review the Hite decision and its potential impact on non-producing leases., Payment of Delay Rentals Alone Cannot Extend Lease into Secondary Term , Oil And Gas
  • In a surprising recent decision, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania refused to apply the doctrine of repudiation to non-producing gas leases. In Lauchle v. Keeton Group, LLC, 2011 WL 782024 (M.D. Pa. March 8, 2011), the gas producers argued that their leases should be “equitably extended” for a period of time equal to the length of the underlying litigation. Due to the uncertainty caused by the litigation, the gas producers had voluntarily ceased all development on the subject properties. After receiving a favorable outcome in the litigation, the gas producers requested that the doctrine of repudiation be applied to extend the five-year primary term of the disputed leases. The District Court rejected this request and held that the doctrine did not extend the leases. This decision represents a significant departure from the rule in most oil/gas jurisdictions., Lease Challenge Will Not Trigger the Doctrine of Repudiation? , Oil And Gas
  • Gas operators have been drilling gas wells throughout this Commonwealth for over a hundred years. As a result, the Pennsylvania countryside is littered with tens of thousands of gas wells. Many of these older wells, unfortunately, are no longer producing gas and have long been abandoned by the gas operator. To make matters worse, the gas operator has disappeared or is no longer in business. Who owns these older, non-producing wells? More importantly, who now owns the remaining natural gas underlying the surface estate? A recent decision of the federal court in Pittsburgh suggests that the mere passage of time will not vest ownership of an unproductive formation in the surface owner., Adverse Possession – Can Surface Owner Acquire Title to Gas Formations by Mere Passage of Time? , Oil And Gas
  • Throughout Pennsylvania it is not uncommon to encounter gas wells that were drilled over 100 years ago. These ancient wells were drilled pursuant to oil/gas leases that often pre-date the turn of the century. In many cases, the original lessee only drilled a single well and never developed the remaining acreage under the lease. Can that single well drilled in the 1920’s now hold an entire 200 tract of land?, Federal Court in Pittsburgh Allows Lease Cancellation Suit to Move Forward, Oil And Gas

Educational Background:

  • John Carroll University, B.A. in Political Science, With Honors, 1991
  • Duquesne University School of Law, Cum Laude; Member of the Law Review, 1995

Industry Groups

  • Oil And Gas
Find Me Online
Website - www.hh-law.com
Office Location for Robert J. Burnett

Three Gateway Center
401 Liberty Avenue, 22nd Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Phone: 412-288-2221

Fax: 412-281-4499

Robert J. Burnett:

Last Updated: 5/23/2019

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