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RULE §3.76Commission Approval of Plats for Mineral Development

(a) The following words and terms, when used in this section, shall have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.

  (1) Minerals--Oil and/or gas.

  (2) Operations site--A surface area of two or more acres that an owner of a possessory mineral interest may use to explore for and produce minerals, which is located in whole or in part within a qualified subdivision, and designated on the subdivision plat.

  (3) Possessory mineral interest--A mineral interest that includes the right to use the land surface for exploration and production of minerals.

  (4) Qualified subdivision--A tract of land not more than 640 acres:

    (A) that is located in a county having a population in excess of 400,000, or in a county having a population in excess of 140,000 that borders a county having a population in excess of 400,000 or located on a barrier island;

    (B) that has been subdivided in a manner authorized by law by the surface owners for residential, commercial, or industrial use; and

    (C) that contains an operations site for each separate 80 acres within the 640-acre tract and provisions for road and pipeline easements to allow use of the operations sites.

  (5) Barrier island--An island bordering on the Gulf of Mexico and entirely surrounded by water.

(b) As provided in subsections (e) and (f) of this section, the surface owners of a parcel of land may restrict use of the surface by the possessory mineral owners if the tract is a qualified subdivision and if a plat of the subdivision has been approved by the Railroad Commission after notice and hearing and filed with the clerk of the county in which the qualified subdivision is to be located.

(c) An application for a hearing under this section must be made in writing and mailed or delivered to the director of the Oil and Gas Division. The application must include:

  (1) a jurisdictional statement setting out the facts stated in subsection (a)(4)(A) and (B) of this section;

  (2) a statement that the applicant has authority to represent and represents all surface owners of land contained in the proposed qualified subdivision;

  (3) the names and addresses of all owners of possessory mineral interests and all mineral lessors of land contained in the proposed qualified subdivision;

  (4) a plat of the proposed subdivision showing each proposed 80-acre tract with its operations site, road easements, and pipeline easements and a legible copy thereof no larger than 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches;

  (5) a concise description of mineral development in the area, including the number of oil and/or gas wells within 2.5 miles of the boundary of the proposed qualified subdivision and the depths at which each well is completed;

  (6) a list of all the Railroad Commission designated oil and/or gas fields, if any, which underlie the proposed qualified subdivision; including the spacing and density requirements. If no Railroad Commission designated fields underlie the qualified subdivision, the application should so state.

(d) The Railroad Commission shall, on proper notice to the applicant and owners of possessory mineral interests and mineral lessors of land contained in the proposed qualified subdivision, hold a hearing on the application to determine the adequacy of the number and location of operations sites and road and pipeline easements. At the hearing on the application, evidence may be presented by the applicant and the owners of possessory mineral interests and mineral lessors. The applicant must carry the burden of proof. After considering the evidence, the commission may approve, reject, or amend the application to ensure that the mineral resources of the subdivision may be fully and effectively developed.

(e) An owner of a possessory mineral interest within a Railroad Commission approved qualified subdivision may use only the surface contained in designated operations sites for exploration, development, and production of minerals and only the designated easements as necessary to adequately use the operations sites.

(f) The owner of the possessory mineral interest may drill wells or extend well bores from an operations site or from a site outside of the qualified subdivision to bottomhole locations vertically beneath the surface of parts of the qualified subdivision other than the operation sites. Such drilling is subject to other applicable commission rules and regulations, and is permissible only to the extent that the operations do not unreasonably interfere with the use of the surface of the qualified subdivision outside the operations site.

(g) Subsections (e) and (f) of this section cease to apply to a subdivision if, by the third anniversary of the date on which the order of the commission becomes final:

  (1) the surface owner has not commenced actual construction of roads or utilities within the qualified subdivision; and

  (2) a lot within the qualified subdivision has not been sold to a third party.

(h) All or any portion of a qualified subdivision may be amended, replatted, or abandoned by the surface owner. An amendment or replat, however, may not alter, diminish, or impair the usefulness of an operations site or appurtenant road or pipeline easement unless the amendment or replat is approved by the commission. Railroad Commission approval of a replat or amendment may be administratively granted by the director of the Oil and Gas Division, or his delegate, upon submission of items required in subsection (c) of this section and after notice and opportunity for hearing has been afforded to all possessory mineral interest owners and mineral lessors of land contained within the original and/or replatted or amended qualified subdivision.

Source Note: The provisions of this §3.76 adopted to be effective July 10, 2000, 25 TexReg 6487

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