Mont. Court Allows Gas Drilling Beneath Ranch


     (CN) – The Montana Supreme Court upheld a natural gas company’s right to drill beneath Diamond Cross ranch in southeastern Montana, owned by candy mogul Forrest E. Mars Jr.




     The oil and gas lease gave Pinnacle Gas Resources the right to drill until Jan. 11, 2008. In November 2007, Pinnacle’s counsel started communications with Diamond Cross Properties and stated that Pinnacle would drill on Jan. 7, 2008.
     During the hearing, Pinnacle argued for a motion for preliminary injunction before requesting leave to call a witness to testify. The district court allowed the witness and then granted Pinnacle’s motion on the basis that the gas company would most likely succeed in its claim.
     On appeal, Diamond Cross argued that the court had wrongfully allowed the witness to testify.
     The Montana Supreme Court affirmed the ruling and concluded that Diamond Cross has no right to stop Pinnacle from exercising its lease rights.
     “In addition to the common law, the lease agreement at issue here explicitly permits Pinnacle to enter the land to exercise its mineral rights,” Justice Jim Rice wrote.
     Mars, the former CEO of Mars Inc. and grandson of company founder Frank C. Mars, owns the 82,000-acre Diamond Cross ranch along the Tongue River.

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