Butler v. Charles Powers Estate (majority)Annotate this Case
The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on whether a deed executed in 1881 reserving the subsurface and removal rights of "one half of the minerals and petroleum oils" in the grantor included any natural gas contained within the shale formation beneath the subject land. The trial court, relying on the 1882 Supreme Court decision "Dunham & Shortt v. Kirkpatrick," (101 Pa. 36 (Pa. 1882)) and its progeny, held that because the deed reservation did not specifically reference natural gas, any natural gas found within the Marcellus Shale beneath the subject land was not intended by the executing parties to the deed to be encompassed within the reservation. The Superior Court reversed that decision and remanded the case with instructions to hold an evidentiary hearing complete with expert, scientific testimony to examine whether: (1) the gas contained within the Marcellus Shale was "conventional natural gas"; (2) Marcellus shale was a "mineral"; and (3) the entity that owns the rights to the shale found beneath the property also owns the rights to the gas contained within that shale. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed, finding that the Superior Court erred in ordering the remand for an evidentiary hearing and reinstated the order of the trial court.