Reservation of “Oil, Coal, and Other Minerals” in Pennsylvania Warranty Deed

I have been asked whether a reservation of “Oil, Coal, and Other Minerals” in a Pennsylvania Warranty Deed would also include natural gas and therefore allow the seller to retain their natural gas rights as well as oil and coal.

Based on the phrase “oil, coal and other minerals” it would be my opinion that the grantor would not retain ownership in any natural gas in such a deed when they sold the land, since natural gas was not specifically mentioned. Therefore I would caution that if one wishes to retain any natural gas rights owned when selling land, one must specifically reserve “natural gas” in the deed.

Pennsylvania courts in the past have applied fairly strict “rules of construction” to deeds in which the landowner sells the land, but reserves the minerals. The rule in this case is basically that unless a mineral is specifically mentioned in the reservation, it is sold along with the land. “Other minerals” therefore, would not include natural gas.

There is precedent for this rule. I am aware of a 1960 case that involved a natural gas dispute in Clearfield County, PA. The dispute was whether natural gas rights are included with the land or go with the mineral title. This court affirmed that natural gas rights go with the land unless specifically reserved. The case also references several others. A link to the court’s opinion is here.

Another, more recent Court of Appeals case (Amoco vs. Guild Trust, 1980) states in paragraph four that “The Pennsylvania rule is that the term “mineral” does not include oil and gas unless the language in the instrument indicates an intent to include those specific resources. A link to THAT case can be found here.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was first presented with the issue of whether “oil and gas” were minerals way back in 1882 in the case of Dunham and Shortt v. Kirkpatrick. The court decided in that case that reserving “all the minerals” did not include oil and gas, since at that time oil and gas, while minerals, were not regarded as such by most and so the intent of the parties in reserving “all minerals” would not include the intention to reserve oil and gas. The Pennsylvania courts have tended to uphold this finding since then, though they are definitely in the minority.

There are later cases in Pennsylvania that do classify natural gas as a mineral, but I still think one should specifically include “natural gas” in any mineral reservation if one wishes to retain those rights when selling land; just to be sure.

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