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An Introduction to Coalbed Gas Development on Indian Lands Development Potential, Ownership Rights, and Operational Issues

John Schumacher, Andrew W. Baldwin, Coalbed Gas Development (1992)

The development of coalbed gas is receiving increased attention in recent years throughout the United States due to enhancements in drilling and production technologies, favorable economic conditions (both tax and market driven), and depletion of conventional reserves. Likewise, increased focus is placed on the development of coalbed gas reserves on Indian lands. This focus on development of coalbed gas on Indian lands has generated questions by coalbed gas developers and Indian tribes in three general areas: (1) are the coalbed gas reserves on Indian lands sufficient to warrant development, (2) who owns the coalbed gas, and (3) what operational issues need to be addressed in development of the coalbed gas.

The goal of this paper is to provide, both coalbed gas developers and Indian tribes, with the general facts about coalbed gas development on Indians lands, including the nature of the resource and its development potential, an introduction to the legal issues concerning ownership of the coalbed gas on Indian lands, and an overview of the operational considerations to be addressed by the developer and the Indian tribe involved. This paper does not provide an exhaustive analysis of all issues for coalbed development on Indian lands. There are over 300 hundred Indian tribes within the United States1 each of which is a sovereign government. The land base of each tribe,