Processing Magazine

Montana court upholds drilling rights in Mars case

January 26, 2009

The Associated Press reports that the Montana Supreme Court has upheld a natural gas company''s right to drill beneath the southeastern Montana ranch of candy billionaire Forrest Mars. An attorney for Mars had sought to force Pinnacle Gas Resources of Sheridan, Wyo., to forfeit the lease it holds on 10,300 acres of Mar''s Diamond Cross Ranch near Birney. A state District Court ruling last year allowed Pinnacle to drill -- despite claims by Mars and Diamond Cross employees that they were not given sufficient notice of the company''s plans as required under state law. Justices ruled Wednesday that Judge Blair Jones correctly sided with Pinnacle in the case. The opinion noted that company representatives had attempted to contact Mars and spoken with his attorney before drilling. Pinnacle has rights to the oil, gas and other minerals beneath the surface of the ranch, and state law entitles the company access to act on its lease. The case before Jones came last January, as Pinnacle sought to begin drilling to keep its lease from expiring. Diamond Cross employees initially blocked the company from coming onto the ranch, before Jones issued an injunction allowing Pinnacle to drill. Diamond Cross later appealed, charging that the injunction was flawed. Three wells have been drilled to date on the Mars ranch. Many more could be drilled under full development, but that is contingent on the installation of pipelines and other infrastructure to support the project.