The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge
Before this Court in this declaratory judgment action are the parties‟ cross-motions for summary judgment. Doc. Nos. 12 and 13. Plaintiff, Paula K. Hoffman ("Hoffman"), who filed an action in Washington County, Pennsylvania, which was properly removed to this Court, seeks a declaration that she is the rightful owner of all oil and gas (mineral rights) located beneath the 97 acre property that she (and her now deceased husband) acquired in North Bethlehem Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1971. Defendants, Arcelormittal Pristine Resources, Inc. ("Arcelormittal") and Bethelehem-Cuba Iron Mines ("BCIM") argue in the converse that under the plain language of numerous recorded deeds, that they have been the rightful and legal owners of all interests in oil and gas for a period of approximately 83 years.
After careful consideration of the parties dueling motions for summary judgment, and supporting documentation, and for the reasons that follow, the Court will grant defendants‟ motion for summary judgment, and will deny plaintiff‟s motion for summary judgment.*fn1 To rule in plaintiff‟s favor would be tantamount to an eradication of countless oil and gas estates and leases recorded in the history of this Commonwealth, and would profoundly change the landscape of property law as it has developed over hundreds of years.
II. Summary Judgment Standards
Summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 is appropriate A>if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.@ Woodside v. School Dist. of Philadelphia Bd. of Educ., 248 F.3d 129, 130 (3d Cir. 2001), quoting Foehl v. United States, 238 F.3d 474, 477 (3d Cir.2001) (citations omitted). In deciding a summary judgment motion, the Court must Aview the evidence . . . through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden@ to determine Awhether a jury could reasonably find either that the plaintiff proved his case by the quality and quantity of the evidence required by the governing law or that he did not.@ Anderson v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 297 F.3d 242, 247 (3d Cir. 2002), quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254 (1986).
When the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party's burden can be Adischarged by >showing= -- that is, pointing out to the District Court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.@ Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the moving party has carried this burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party who cannot rest on the allegations of the pleadings and must Ado more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.@ Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Petruzzi's IGA Supermarkets, Inc. v. Darling-Delaware Co., 998 F.2d 1224, 1230 (3d Cir. 1993). Thus the non-moving party cannot rest on the pleadings, but instead must go beyond the pleadings and present Aspecific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial,@ Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), and cannot rely on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions in attempting to survive a summary judgment motion. Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir.1989) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325 (1986)). The non-moving party must respond Aby pointing to sufficient cognizable evidence to create material issues of fact concerning every element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial.@ Simpson v. Kay Jewelers, Div. Of Sterling, Inc., 142 F. 3d 639, 643 n. 3 (3d Cir. 1998), quoting Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 762 n. 1 (3d Cir. 1994).
AIn considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence >is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.= Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).@ Marino v. Industrial Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004.) See also Doe v. County of Centre, PA, 242 F.3d 437, 446 (3d Cir. 2001) (court must view facts in the light most favorable, draw all reasonable inferences, and resolve all doubts, in favor of the nonmoving party ).
There are no genuine issues of material fact, only issues about the appropriate inferences and legal consequences of the undisputed material facts, and unless noted, the following facts are not disputed.
On or about July 21, 1924, Union Coal and Coke Company conveyed certain property, including the subject parcel, to BCIM by Deed dated same (hereinafter the "1924 Deed"). The 1924 Deed was recorded at the Washington County Record of Deeds Office on September 23, 1924. Then, by Deed dated July 24, 1928 ("1928 Deed"), BCIM conveyed to Mary Kukovich, who is plaintiff‟s immediate predecessor-in-title, certain rights in and to the parcel as outlined at paragraph 15 of the Complaint.
While defendants contend that the 1928 Deed, which is recounted in the Complaint at paragraph 16, excepted and reserved to ArcelorMittal Pristine (predecessor in title) all rights to the oil and gas within and underlying the parcel, plaintiff argues to the contrary. The Reservation Clause in the 1928 Deed states as follows:
EXCEPTING AND RESERVING, ALSO, to the Company, its successors and assigns, all gas and oil within and underlying said premises, with the right to enter thereon at any and all times for the purpose of drilling for and extracting the same, with the right to enter thereon at any and all time for the purpose of drilling for and extracting the same, with the right to erect and construct thereon and removing therefrom such derricks, drills, pipelines and other structures . . . as may be deemed by the company, its successors and assigns, to be either necessary or convenient in such drilling or extraction or in the transporting of any oil or gas recovered therefrom . . . .
On May 6, 2003, Bethelehem‟s successor-in-interest conveyed by Deed ("2003 Deed") to ArcelorMittal Pristine all of BCIM‟s interest in the Parcel. Complaint at ¶ 4. Doc. No. 13-4. BCIM‟s interest in the Parcel was owned by a subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel Corporation at the time of its bankruptcy, after which the interest was conveyed to Pristine Resources, Inc., the name of which was later changed to ArcelorMittal Pristine Resources Inc. Doc. Nos. 1-1 and 13-4.*fn2 Under the heading "Partial Source of Title," the 1924 Deed is identified as the means by which BCIM acquired the Parcel from Union Coal and Coke Company. Doc. No. 13-4 at 12.
By Deed dated July 31, 1971 ("1971 Deed"), plaintiff acquired her interest in the subject land, which Deed was recorded in the Washington County Recorder of Deeds Office at Deed Book Volume 1343, Page 903 and has been attached to the Complaint. Doc. No. 1-1 at ¶ 11. The 1971 Deed reflects a conveyance of the subject land from ...