Anschutz Corp. v. Sanders

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Anschutz Corp. v. Sanders
1987 OK 11
734 P.2d 1290
58 OBJ 287
Case Number: 61281
Decided: 02/03/1987
Supreme Court of Oklahoma

THE ANSCHUTZ CORPORATION, APPELLEE
v.
KENNETH SANDERS, APPELLANT

Appeal from the District Court of Pottawatomie County;

GlennDale Carter, Trial Judge.

¶0 Appellee, lessee of a mineral interest in certain property,brought this action seeking injunctive relief following appellantsurface owner's refusal to allow entry onto property for thepurpose of geophysical testing. Following a hearing on thematter, the trial court issued a temporary injunction prohibitingappellant from interfering with appellee's right of entry.Appellant now challenges this ruling alleging the applicabilityof the surface damages act, 52 O.S.Supp. 1982 §§ 318.2 [52-318.2] through318.9.

AFFIRMED.

Birdwell & Pain by William F. Pain and Ronald J. Pool, OklahomaCity, for appellee.
Adcock & Flowers by Jon Flowers, Shawnee, and Abel, Musser,Sokolosky & Clark by Larry D. Bishop and Glen Mullins, OklahomaCity, for appellant.

LAVENDER, J

¶1 Appellee, The Anschutz Corporation, is the holder of an oil andgas lease covering an undivided fractional interest

¶2 Appellee initiated the present action by filing a petition forinjunctive relief to prohibit appellant from interfering withappellee's entrance onto the surface estate for the purpose ofconducting seismic testing of the property. A hearing was had inthe matter and a temporary injunction issued, enjoining appellantfrom interfering with appellee's survey and seismic explorationof the property. Appellant now challenges the propriety of theissuance of the injunction.

¶3 The basis of appellant's arguments on appeal is his assertionthat the surface [734 P.2d 1291] damages act, 52 O.S.Supp. 1982 §§ 318.2 [52-318.2] through318.9, applies to an oil and gas lessee seeking to make entryonto the surface estate for the purpose of explorationactivities. Appellant argues that the act does so apply and thatappellee had no right to enter onto the land without complyingwith the provisions of the act.

¶4 Appellant presents a rather unique line of reasoning to supporthis theory. Appellant would have us believe that because theStates of Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota have providedthat their respective surface damages acts

¶5 The right to go upon land to prospect for and take oil and gasis a proper subject of ownership.

¶6 Any subsequent legislative action taken in derogation of theserecognized rights of access to the surface must be strictlyconstrued against the abrogation of such rights.

¶7 The right of entry for the purpose of exploration has beenpreviously recognized as part of Oklahoma decisional law. Thelegislation which appellant argues derogates that right isspecifically addressed only to drilling and productionoperations. To infer an intent of the Legislature that thisstatutory scheme was also to function to limit the right toengage in exploratory activities is not a permissible result.

¶8 This conclusion is strengthened by the very authorities citedby appellant. The Legislatures of Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota, to apply their surface damages acts to exploratory activities, used specific language to achieve that [734 P.2d 1292] result.

¶10 As the remaining arguments of appellant are all premised uponthe assertion of the applicability of the Oklahoma surfacedamages act to geophysical exploration activities, and as we havefound that act not to apply, the remaining arguments are bereftof merit. Appellee had a right to enter the land for the purposeof such exploration under its lease. Upon appellant's denial ofentry the only effective remedy available to appellee was theinjunctive relief sought through the trial court. That relief inthis case was properly granted. The action of the trial court isaccordingly affirmed.

¶11 All the Justices concur.

FOOTNOTES

1The interest leased by appellee represents nine and a thirdacres of the 106.7 acre tract.

2 Mont.Rev.Codes Ann. §§ 82-10-501 through 82-10-511; S.D.Codified Laws Ann. §§ 45-5A-1 through 45-5A-11; N.D. Cent. Code §§38-11.1-01 through 38-11.1-09.

3 See Stone v. Texoma Production Co., 336 P.2d 1099, 1101(Okla. 1959).

4 467 P.2d 470, 472, 473 (Okla. 1970); and see also Cormackv. Wil-McCorp., 661 P.2d 525, 526 (Okla. 1983).

5 See In re Adoption of Graves, 481 P.2d 136, 138 (Okla.1971).

6 52 O.S.Supp. 1982 § 318.2 [52-318.2](1).

7 Note 2, supra.

8 25 O.S. 1981 § 2 [25-2].

9 In re Guardianship of Campbell, 450 P.2d 203, 205 (Okla.1966).