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Access and Permitting For Oil and Gas Exploration, Drilling and Development

James A. Holtkamp, Overthrust Belt - Oil and Gas Legal and Land Issues (1980)

Oil and gas exploration and development, like any other natural resource development activity, requires not only the expertise of geologists, engineers, and accountants, but also that of lawyers and environmental technicians. It does not matter whether the oil or gas can be physically removed from the ground. What matters is whether the operator has legal permission to remove it.

Traditionally, the exploration, drilling and production of oil and gas have been regulated mostly by the oil and gas conservation commissions or equivalent bodies of the states in which the petroleum is situated. However, The welter of environmental statutes enacted by Congress and many states during the last decade have added substantially to the number of permits required for oil and gas operations. In addition, when the oil and gas is in federal ownership, permits relating to operations are granted by various federal agencies. The overthrust belt has the misfortune of being largely under federal ownership. In fact, a large part of the private and state lands in the overthrust belt region are interspersed with the federal lands in such a manner that development of many nonfederal lands is at least indirectly controlled by one or more federal agencies.

The consequence of failing to obtain any of the necessary permits and approvals for an oil and gas operation range from merely very