United States v. Union Oil Co. of California
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
549 F.2d 1271 (1977)
Union Oil Company of California and others (collectively, Union) (defendants) owned or leased lands in Sonoma County, California, in an area called The Geysers. Sources of geothermal steam existed below Union’s lands, and Union wanted to develop wells on the lands to produce the steam for use in electricity generation. Union’s lands were public lands that were patented under the Stock-Raising Homestead Act of 1916 (the act). Under the act, all land patents—including the patents applicable to Union’s lands—contained a reservation to the United States (plaintiff) of “all the coal and other minerals in the lands,” along with the right to mine for and remove the coal and minerals. The United States attorney general brought a quiet-title action against Union in federal court in California, asserting that the relevant land patents reserved to the United States the geothermal resources beneath Union’s lands. The district court disagreed and granted judgment in Union’s favor. The United States appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Browning, J.)
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