Christiansen quoted on status of Oklahoma royalty law

published in The Oklahoman | January 23, 2015

In an article that reported on a proposed multimillion-dollar class action settlement between Oklahoma royalty owners and a large oil and gas exploration and production company, The Oklahoman interviewed McAfee & Taft attorney Mark Christiansen about the rise in class action royalty lawsuits in Oklahoma. Christiansen, one of the state’s leading energy litigators, attributes the number of class action lawsuits to a lack of clarity in Oklahoma royalty law.

“I think the uncertain status of Oklahoma royalty law has been a major factor in the reality that these class-action lawsuits virtually always settle rather than proceeding to trial and through the appellate process,” he said.

Christiansen attributes such uncertainty to a 1998 court decision that ruled oil and gas lessees, not royalty owners, are responsible for the expenses associated with making the gas “marketable.”  But because the courts did not define “marketable,” both sides of the issues have interpreted the law very differently.

“Widely conflicting views have developed between the royalty owner plaintiff lawyers and the oil and gas companies as to exactly what is needed in order for gas to reach the point of being ‘marketable’ so that further costs can be proportionately shared with the royalty owners,” he said.