MARY HARVEY, et al.
JOSEPH SINES, et al
from the Circuit Court for Garrett County. Ray Strubin,
BY: Robert L. Allen, Jr. of McHenry, MD. FOR APPELLANT
BY: Justin Gregory (J. Gregory Law Firm, L.C. on the brief)
all of Oakland, MD FOR APPELLEE
BEFORE: Krauser, C.J., Berger, Zarnoch, Robert A., (Retired,
Specially Assigned), JJ.[*]
opening of the Marcellus Shale in the late-2000s spawned a
resurgence in natural resource extraction across the
Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, including Western
Maryland. In 2010, the General Assembly enacted the Maryland
Dormant Mineral Interests Act, now codified at Section
15-1201, et seq. of the Environment Article ("
Env." ), Maryland Code (1982, 2014 Repl. Vol.), to allow
surface owners to terminate severed mineral interests that
had gone unused for twenty years or more.
the end of 2014, Joseph L. Sines and Sandra S. Sines ("
the Sineses" ), appellees, brought an action in the
Circuit Court for Garrett County to terminate an undivided
half-mineral interest owned by the descendants of Henry B.
Harvey--Mary Harvey and Patricia Sue Lannom né e
Harvey (" the Harveys" ), appellants. After the
parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and without
a hearing, the court found no material facts in dispute, and
entered an order terminating the mineral interest of the
Harveys appealed to this Court and present the following
question for our review, which we have rephrased:
Whether the Dormant Mineral Interests Act is unconstitutional
under Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights and
Article III, Section 40 of the Maryland
that the Maryland Dormant Mineral Interests Act is
constitutional because it does not retroactively impair
vested rights, nor does it take property without just
compensation. We affirm the decision of the circuit court.
The Maryland Dormant Mineral Interests
General Assembly passed the Maryland Dormant Mineral
Interests Act (" the Act" ) by a unanimous vote in
each house during the 2010 legislative session. See
2010 Laws, ch. 268 (S.B. 288), ch. 269 (H.B. 320). The Act
created a new cause of action, allowing a surface owner of
real property subject to a mineral interest to terminate a
dormant mineral interest. Env. § 15-1203(a)(1). The
action is " in the nature of and require[s] the same
notice as is required in an action to quiet title as set
forth in § 14-108 of the Real Property Article."
Env. § 15-1203(b)(1). " A court order that
terminates a mineral interest merges the terminated mineral
interest, including express and implied appurtenant surface
rights and obligations, with the surface estate in shares
proportionate to the ownership of the surface estate, subject
to existing liens for taxes or assessments." Env. §
Act defines a dormant mineral interest as one that " is
unused for a period of 20 or more years preceding the
commencement of termination of the mineral interest."
Env. § 15-1203(a)(2)(i). Additionally, notice of the
mineral interest must not have been recorded during the
period of 20 or more years preceding the commencement of the
action to terminate the mineral interest. Env. §
15-1203(a)(2)(ii). Several actions constitute "
use" of the mineral interest by an owner. These include:
(i) active mineral exploration or exploitation; (ii) payment
of taxes on a separate assessment of the mineral interest;
(iii) recordation of an instrument that evidences the
continued existence of the mineral interest; and (iv)
recordation of a judgment or decree that makes a specific
reference to the mineral interest. Env. §
15-1203(c)(1). An owner of a mineral interest may record, at
any time, a notice of intent to preserve the mineral interest
or a part of a mineral interest. Env. § 15-1204(a)(1)
a petition to terminate a dormant mineral interest has been
filed, an owner of the mineral interest can still "
record a late notice of intent to preserve the mineral
interest as a condition of dismissal of the action, if the
owner of the mineral interest pays the litigation expenses
incurred by the surface owner of the real property that is
subject to the mineral interest." Env. §
15-1205(b). However, the Act precludes an owner of a mineral
interest that has been unused for a period of 40 years or
more preceding the commencement of the action from filing a
late notice of intent to preserve the mineral interest. Env.
§ 15-1205(c). The Standing Committee on Rules of
Practice and Procedure adopted rules to aid the
implementation of the Act. See Md. Rules 12-701,
Act's stated purpose " is to make uniform the law
governing dormant mineral interests among the states."
Env. § 15-1202(b). In that vein, Act was patterned on
the Uniform Dormant Mineral Interests Act, which in turn was
designed " to enable and encourage marketability of real
property and to mitigate the adverse effect of dormant
mineral interests on the full use and development of both
surface estate and mineral interests in real property."
Uniform Law Commission, Uniform Dormant Mineral Interests
Acts § 1(a). The uniform act also provides that it
" shall be construed to effectuate its purpose to
provide a means for termination of dormant mineral interests
that impair marketability of real property."
Id. § 1(b). The Attorney General, in a letter
to Governor Martin O'Malley, dated May 3, 2010, approved
of the constitutionality of the statute.
The Sineses' Property
Sineses are the surface owners of approximately twenty acres
in Garrett County, and own an undivided one-half interest in
the minerals beneath the property. On November 20, 2014, the
Sineses filed a petition in the circuit court to terminate
any dormant mineral rights mineral rights on their property.
They identified the Harveys as potential owners of a portion
of the mineral interest, as descendants of Henry B. Harvey
who purchased a one-half interest in the minerals on the
property, evidenced by a deed dated March 26, 1912 and
recorded in the Garrett County land records.
April 17, 2015, the parties filed cross-motions for summary
judgment. The record showed that there had been no use of the
mineral interest for at least the past 40 years. The Sineses
asserted that because there was no use during the past 40
years, the court should enter an order terminating the
dormant mineral rights, pursuant to Env. § §
15-1203(a), -1205(c). The Harveys asserted that, among other
things, the statute was facially unconstitutional because it
abrogated vested rights. The Sineses opposed the Harveys'
motion for summary judgment. Neither party requested a
hearing, and the record before the circuit court was sparse.
12, 2015, the court entered an order, granting summary
judgment for the Sineses, denying the Harveys' motion,
and terminating the dormant mineral interest in the ...