United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
RICHARD CAPUTO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before me are motions for summary judgment filed by
Defendants Statoil USA Onshore Properties, Inc.
("Statoil") and Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC
("Chesapeake") (Doc. 77), and Defendant Anadarko
E&P Onshore LLC ("Andarko") (Doc. 73). This case
arises out of the construction of a natural gas well pad by
Defendant Chesapeake on Plaintiff Valley Rod & Gun Club's
("Plaintiff') property, pursuant to an executed oil
and gas lease. Plaintiff claims that Chesapeake's use of
rock, fill, mulch, and other surface material from
Plaintiff's property in constructing the well pad
constituted a "misappropriation" or
"conversion" of that material. However, because
both the lease and Pennsylvania law permit a lessee to access
and use as much of the surface property as is
"reasonably necessary" or "necessary and
convenient" to extract the oil and gas, and because
Plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence showing the
existence of a genuine dispute as to any material fact,
Defendants' summary judgment motions will be granted.
a Pennsylvania not-for-profit corporation, owns acreage and a
lodge in Wilmot Township, Bradford County, Pennsylvania.
(Doc. 1-1, at 4, Compl., ¶ 1). On July 20,
2006, Plaintiff executed an Oil and Gas Lease (the
"Lease") with Defendant Anadarko. Anadarko later
assigned part of the lessee interest to Defendant Chesapeake.
Defendant Statoil received its partial interest in the lease
by way of an assignment from Chesapeake. (Id. at
¶ 5.) Pursuant to the Lease, Plaintiff leased the oil
and gas underlying its property. Specifically, the Lease
provides as follows:
LESSOR hereby grants, demises, leases and lets exclusively to
LESSEE the oil and gas, including coalbed methane gas,
underlying the land herein leased, together with such
exclusive rights as may be necessary or convenient for
LESSEE, at its election, to explore for, develop, produce,
measure and market production from the premises, using
methods and techniques which are not restricted to current
technology, including the exclusive right to conduct
geophysical and other exploratory tests; to conduct
dewatering operations upon formations in which LESSEE plans
to produce coalbed methane gas; to drill, maintain, operate,
cease to operate, plug, abandon, and remove wells; to use or
install roads, electric power and telephone facilities,
pipelines with appurtenant facilities, necessary or
convenient for use in the production and transportation of
products from the premises and from neighboring lands, and
such rights shall survive the term of this agreement for so
long thereafter as operations are continued on this Lease or
adjacent lands; to use oil, gas, and non-domestic water
sources, free of cost, to store gas of any kind underground
regardless of the source thereof, including the injecting of
gas therein and removing the same therefrom; to protect
stored gas; to operate, maintain, repair, and remove material
(Doc. 1 -1, at 13). According to the Complaint, the Lease and
its recitations were also meant to promote public safety and
protect the hunting, farming, recreation, and business
operations of Plaintiff. (Compl., ¶ 8).
letter dated November 8, 2010, Chesapeake notified Plaintiff
that it was planning to drill gas wells on Plaintiffs
property pursuant to the Lease. (Doc. 1-1, at 21).
connection with installing the well pad, Chesapeake installed
roads, access, and drainage. (Compl., ¶ 9). It
is undisputed that Chesapeake constructed the well pad,
roads, and appurtenant facilities using, in part, rock, soil,
mulch, and other surface material from Plaintiffs property.
(Id. at ¶¶ 12, 16).
on the foregoing events, Plaintiff commenced this action in
the Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County, Pennsylvania.
(Doc. 1, at 3). The Complaint consists of two counts. Count I
asserts a trespass claim against Defendants. Count II asserts
a claim for misappropriation/conversion of rock, fill, and
other material from Plaintiffs property, in that
"Defendants have made unauthorized, improper, or
unlawful use of Plaintiffs property without permission,
right, ownership or proper consent or agreement."
(Compl., ¶ 25).
March 19, 2013, the action was removed to this Court. (Doc.
1, at 1). Subsequently, on March 26, 2013, both Anadarko and
Chesapeake filed motions to dismiss the action pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
3, 2013, the Court dismissed with prejudice Count I of
Plaintiffs Complaint against Defendants Chesapeake and
Anadarko. (Doc. 20). On October 7, 2013, the Court, in the
interest of judicial economy, ordered that Count I be
dismissed as a claim against Defendant Statoil as well. (Doc.
matter was referred to mediation on July 14, 2015. (Doc. 56).
On September 25, 2015, the mediator issued a report advising
the Court that settlement was not reached. (Doc. 60).
4, 2016, Defendants filed the instant motions for summary
judgment. (Docs. 73, 77). Following a lengthy briefing
period, the motions are now ripe for disposition.
judgment shall be granted "if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is appropriate when
"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." Wright v. Corning, 679 F.3d
101, 103 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Orsatti v. N.J. State
Police, 71 F.3d 480, 482 (3d Cir. 1995)). A fact is
material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might
affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable
substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need
only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. See Edelman v. Comm'rof Soc. Sec, 83 F.3d
68, 70 (3d Cir. 1996). Where, however, there is a disputed
issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only
if the factual dispute is not a genuine one.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. An issue of material
fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248.
Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party
has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no
genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Howard Hess
Dental Labs., Inc. v. Dentsply Int'l, Inc., 602 F.3d
237, 251 (3d Cir. 2010). The moving party may present its own
evidence or, where the non-moving party has the burden of
proof, simply point out to the court that "the nonmoving
party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential
element of her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
considering whether there are genuine issues of material
fact, the court is required to "examine the evidence of
record in the light most favorable to the party opposing
summary judgment, and resolve all reasonable inferences in
that party's favor." Wishkin v. Potter, 476
F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). Once the moving party has
satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the
non-moving party to either present affirmative evidence
supporting its version of the material facts or to refute the
moving party's contention that the facts entitle it to
judgment as a matter of law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at
256-57. The Court need not accept mere conciusory
allegations, whether they are made in the complaint or a
sworn statement. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife
Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990).
order to prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the
non-moving party must show "specific facts such that a
reasonable jury could find in that party's favor, thereby
establishing a genuine issue of fact for trial."
Galli v. N.J. Meadowlands Comm'n,490 F.3d 265,
270 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). Although the
non-moving party's evidence may be either direct or
circumstantial, and "need not be as great as a
preponderance, the evidence must be more than a
scintilla." Id. (quoting Hugh v. Butler
Cnty. Family YMCA,418 F.3d 265, 267 (3d Cir. 2005)). In
deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the judge's
function is not himself ...