Pennsylvania Court Rules that State Owns Minerals under Turnpike
On March 5, 2019, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued an opinion in O'Layer McCready v. Dep't of Cmty. & Econ. Dev., No. 778 C.D. 2018, _ A.3d _ (Pa. Commw. Ct. Mar. 5, 2019), affirming a Board of Property ruling that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania owned the mineral rights under a tract of land that was conveyed to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission in 1990 in lieu of condemnation. The former owner filed an action in 2012 to quiet title to the mineral estate that was ultimately rejected by the Board. On appeal, the Court reviewed the terms of the deed and found that the deed was unambiguous and did not reserve any mineral rights to the plaintiff. The Court rejected plaintiff’s additional arguments that the Turnpike Commission lacked the authority to acquire the minerals or that acquiring the minerals was unreasonable.
The Court’s decision confirms that even in the case of public roadways, the terms of the deed generally control the nature of the interest conveyed and emphasizes the importance of careful title examination when trying to determine the ownership of mineral rights under Pennsylvania roadways.