Who owns the oil under county roads?
by Joe Baker
Jun 06, 2014 | 585 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KARNES CITY – Karnes County’s Commissioners Court considered whether or not to approve a resolution in favor of legislation to negate a 54-year-old attorney general opinion that effectively gave ownership of oil and gas under county roads to the State of Texas.

The discussion of Attorney General Opinion WW-870 took place in the May 30 meeting.

Before discussing the item, Karnes County resident Maurice Yarter spoke to the court on the topic.

Yarter briefly summarized the opinion for the court which was submitted by the county attorney for Kleberg County in 1960.

“The county roads in Kleberg County at the time, oil revenues, as they do today, go to the state,” Yarter said. “Kleberg County basically filed a suit against the state, went to the attorney general for an opinion and basically said that the state, if they own the roads, and are collecting revenues, then they have a responsibility to maintain those roads.”

Yarter said the opinion has never been challenged or overturned. He recommended support of the resolution to negate the opinion, because it overturned, then the oil revenue currently going to the state, would go to the county, instead.

County Commissioner Shelby Dupnik told the court that DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler is involved with the effort to bring the issue before the next session of the Texas Legislature.

County Judge Richard Butler said the oil and gas values under the county roads can add up to a substantial amount of money over time. He said that over the past 40 months, the state received royalties totaling $7.5 million for oil and gas produced from beneath Karnes County’s county roads.

“It is a tremendous amount of money that has gone to the state for use that doesn’t benefit us,” Butler said. “We generate the income and they get the money.”

Butler made a motion to approve the resolution supporting Judge Fowler’s effort to have the opinion reversed through legislation.

The motion was seconded by County Commissioner Tracey Schendel and the motion carried on a unanimous vote.
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