SB 243 amends provisions of the Seismic Exploration Regulation Act related to required notification procedures for surface estate owners. It requires seismic exploration operator applicants to file an affidavit within 90 days with the county clerk reporting the mailing of a notice and listing the surface owners which were not locatable. Surface owners that are not locatable will be deemed as having rejected the offer. It also requires the notice to include a description of the surface estate to be entered upon for seismic exploration. If there is not a prior written agreement related to seismic operation, the notice must include a specific provision related to the amount of damages offered by the operator to the surface owner.
The measure requires an operator to provide notice to the surface owner at least 15 days prior to seismic exploration, and in the absence of an agreement, requires the two parties to make a good-faith effort to resolve reasonable damage issues. The surface owner may accept the offer by following specified procedures, but that acceptance does not prohibit the owner from attempting to recover damages. If the surface owner rejects or fails to make a timely acceptance of the offer prior to the deadline, the surface owner will be deemed to have rejected it and the operator may enter the property and commence seismic operations. The measure requires an applicant to file an affidavit with information about attempts to contact the surface owners and provides for a cause of action for damages, defines the circumstances in which the surface owner or the operator is the prevailing party and directs the recovery of costs.
Again, if prior to the expiration of the fifteen-day notice period, the surface owner rejects the amount tendered with the notice required in writing to the operator, or the surface owner fails to make a timely acceptance of the offer contained in the notice, then the surface owner will be deemed to have rejected the offer tendered with the notice, and the operator may enter the property and commence seismic operations.
This means that you may reject the offer but the exploration will continue anyway. You may still go to court and sue for damages if you reject the exploration company’s offer.
If the surface owner has properly rejected or has been deemed to have rejected the amount tendered with the notice required, the surface owner may initiate an action pursuant to The Small Claims Procedure Act or a civil action pursuant to the Oklahoma Pleading Code, as appropriate, to recover the reasonable damages, if any, actually sustained by reason of the operator's seismic exploration.
This bill was approved by the governor on this day.