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Ida-Therm, LLC v. Bedrock Geothermal

December 20, 2012

IDA-THERM, LLC, PLAINTIFF-COUNTERDEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND GARY RAY MANN AND KALEE MANN, HUSBAND AND WIFE; MATT DELBERT MANN; ALAN KOLBET AND MATILDA KOLBET, HUSBAND AND WIFE, PLAINTIFFS-COUNTERDEFENDANTS,
v.
BEDROCK GEOTHERMAL, LLC, DEFENDANT-COUNTERCLAIMANT-RESPONDENT, AND CPC MINERAL, LLC; PRESTON R. BELL; DORIS BELL ELLIOTT; JANALYNN FRIEND; MANX D. QUAYLE; DAWNALYN HEWLETT; CALVIN W. YATES; JON N. YATES; BRUCE F. QUAYLE; SHARON BAEAS AHMED; RALPH LAWAYNE BATES; PHIL BATES; ALFRED BURDETTE BATES; RITA J. HARSHMAN; NANCY FAYE JASZKOWIAK; PATRICIA J. WEBB; KREIG BELL; MONTY BELL; JOHN BELL SYRE; AND ALL UNKNOWN OWNERS AND/OR OTHER PERSONS OR ENTITIES CLAIMING ANY INTEREST IN GEOTHERMAL RESOURCES IN THE FOLLOWING DESCRIBED REAL PROPERTY: SEE FILE FOR COMPLETE DESCRIPTION, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



Appeal from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Bonneville County. Hon. Dane H. Watkins, Jr., District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Jones, Justice.

Idaho Falls, November 2012 Term 2012 Opinion No. 147

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

The judgment of the district court is reversed.

Ida-Therm, LLC, appeals a summary judgment in favor of Bedrock Geothermal, LLC, holding that a reservation of "all the oil, gas, and minerals, in, on, or under the surface of [deeded] lands," in a 1946 warranty deed included the geothermal resources underlying the property. We reverse.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On March 19, 1946, Arthur J. Bell and his wife, Vinnie O. Bell, conveyed land in Bonneville County, Idaho (the Bell Property) via warranty deed (the Bell Deed) to C.C. Mann. The Bell Deed reserved to Arthur and Vinnie "all the oil, gas, and minerals, in, on, or under the surface" of the Bell Property. The individual Defendants in this suit are the successors of Arthur and Vinnie and the owners of the reserved oil, gas, and mineral rights. They allege that the reservation includes the rights to geothermal resources and, based on this contention, they have leased rights to the geothermal resources to Bedrock.

Plaintiffs Garry and Kalee Mann, Alan and Matilda Kolbet, and Matt Mann are C.C. Mann's successors and the owners of the Bell Property. They allege that the Bell Deed reservation does not include geothermal resources. Based on this, they believe that as part of their estate they own the geothermal rights, which they have leased to Ida-Therm.

On August 4, 2010, the Plaintiffs brought this action in an attempt to clarify the scope of the oil, gas, and mineral reservation, and settle the ownership of the geothermal resources. Bedrock filed an answer and counterclaim on September 9, 2010, alleging that the Bell Deed reservation does include geothermal resources. It thus sought a declaratory judgment that IdaTherm's lease was void and quieting title in favor of Bedrock.

On February 17, 2011, Bedrock moved for summary judgment and "ask[ed] the [district court] to rule on the dispositive issue of whether the mineral reservation in the Bell Deed includes geothermal resources." The district court did so in a May 26, 2011, Memorandum Decision and Order, where it held that the Bell Deed's mineral reservation had severed the mineral and surface estates, and that "the scope of [Bedrock's] mineral estate includes geothermal resources." Based on this, the court granted Bedrock's motion for summary judgment, and entered judgment for Bedrock on July 11, 2011. Ida-Therm timely appealed to this Court.

II. ISSUE ON APPEAL

I. Did the district court err in determining that the Bell Deed's reservation of "all the oil, gas, and minerals, in, on, or under the surface" of the land included geothermal resources?

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review.

In reviewing grants of summary judgment, this Court uses the same standard as the district court. Cnty. Of Boise v. Idaho Cntys. Risk Mgmt. Program, Underwriters, 151 Idaho 901, 904, 265 P.3d 514, 517 ...


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