On March 5, 2018, the West Virginia Legislature passed new legislation known as the Cotenancy Modernization and Majority Protection Act, W. Va. Code § 37B-1-1 et seq. (Cotenancy Statute). This new Cotenancy Statute, which became effective June 3, 2018, is intended to facilitate oil and gas development of West Virginia properties that have numerous fractional oil and gas owners. It applies to tracts in which there are seven or more owners of the oil and gas in place, and changes West Virginia law by allowing an operator to produce oil and gas without the consent of all oil and gas owners under certain circumstances.

Background

Prior to passage of the Cotenancy Statute, West Virginia law mandated consent of 100 percent of the oil and gas owners before an operator could lawfully develop the oil and gas estate. If any oil and gas owner refused to sign a lease, regardless of how small that non-consenting owner’s fractional interest, the operator was compelled to either forego development or file a partition action under W. Va. Code § 37-4-3. Through partition, an operator could acquire the non-consenting owner’s interest at fair market value, as appraised by three special commissioners appointed by the court.…