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Justices Side With Landowners On Ohio Drilling Leases

In a divided decision Thursday the Ohio Supreme Court sides with landowners over disputedd oil-and-gas leases.

The Ohio Supreme Court has sided with landowners in a long-running legal battle over 700 disputed oil-and-gas leases in southern and eastern Ohio.

In a 4-3 decision Thursday, the court ruled Beck Energy Corp.'s leases require the company to begin preparing to drill within 10 years in order to maintain control of the properties. The energy company had argued it needed more time.

Thursday's divided decision restores a trial court determination that voided leases for five Monroe County landowners. They argued Beck wrote contract language that allowed the company to sit on the land indefinitely without drilling. Such perpetual leases are against Ohio policy.

Justices reversed an appellate court ruling that upheld the leases as valid.

The initial owners declared class action to void leases for additional landowners.