Buffalo Environmental Law Journal

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Hydraulic fracturing has driven a boom in natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale. While providing a growing source of domestic energy, this boom also raises signicant environmental concerns. Many of the impacts of hy draulic fracturing predominantly affect the inhabitants of the property where the drilling occurs. Yet when those inhabitants own only the surface estate, they have relatively little influence over whether and how the drilling occurs and will not profit from the gas extraction. This article provides a jurisdictional case stud4 set in West Virginia to assist in understanding the nuances relevant to an interpretation of the scope of express and implied surface easements pertinent to mineral extraction. West Virginia takes a unique approach to the accommodation doctrine. It permits a surface ovner to argue that certain overly burdensome practices may not have been contemplated by the parties to the original severance deed and easement, thus weakening the likelihood of their propriety and giving surface ovners leverage. Depending on the tlpe of easement at issue, the analysis can include a review of the burden to the surface, the nature of surface uses, the necessity of a practice, the compatibility of a practice, and/or contractual intention.