The recent explosion in oil and gas production in Ohio has largely resulted from horizontal drilling techniques known as "hydraulic fracking." A well head will be drilled on one person's property, but the drilling will then proceed horizontally and go under another person's adjacent property. Many landowners in the area where fracking is taking place have deeds which reserved the rights to the coal, oil, gas, and other minerals under the property, or the landowner may have sold the subsurface rights at some time in the past. The question is whether, pursuant to Ohio law, the surface owner automatically became the owner of the sub-surface rights due to the failure of the person or company who purportedly owns the subsurface rights to take any action to implement those rights. Specifically, Ohio enacted R.C. §5301.56, effective March 22, 1989, entitled "Abandonment and Preservation of Mineral Interest," provides that if the owner of subsurface oil, gas, and other minerals (the statute specifically excepts coal from its operation) has not taken certain action within twenty (20) years, then the title to the subsurface oil, gas, and other minerals automatically vested in the surface owner. The statute provides that one of the following events must have occurred during the relevant twenty (20) year period: the mineral interest was subject to a title transaction; there was actual production; the mineral interest was used in underground storage; a drilling permit was issued, or; a notice to preserve the claim was filed. The 1989 statute expressly provided that no rights to the oil, gas, or other minerals will be deemed abandoned under its terms for three years from its effective date, presumably to allow the owners of the subsurface rights a significant amount of time in which to take one of the actions required by the statute and thereby reassert and preserve their rights. But, if no action is taken pursuant to the statute, then the ownership of the subsurface oil, gas, and other minerals is automatically vested in the surface owner. Thus, as of three years from the effective date of the 1989 statute, many surface owners automatically became the vested owners of the subsurface oil, gas, and other minerals, under their property. There, of course, a complication. The statute was amended in 2006 to provide that the owner of the surface rights must now give notice to the owner of the subsurface rights, and further provides that the owner of the subsurface rights will then have 60 days to file a notice of intent to preserve the subsurface rights. But, for those whose rights to the subsurface oil, gas, and the minerals became automatically vested under the 1989 version of the statute, the provisions of the 2006 version are legally irrelevant. It would appear that many landowners are unaware of their rights to the oil and gas under their property pursuant to the 1989 Ohio statute. If you think you may have the right to the subsurface oil, gas, or other minerals, under your property, please contact an attorney to discuss your rights.