Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1955 No. 113 - July 12, 1955
AGO Opinion Header Image
Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

BOARD OF STATE LAND COMMISSIONERS ‑- JURISDICTION COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC LANDS ‑- JURISDICTION OIL AND GAS LEASES

The board of state land commissioners has general supervision and control over leasing of state school lands for the extraction of oil, gas or other hydrocarbons and may as provided in sec. 3, ch. 217, Laws of 1941, determine the terms upon which such leases shall be granted.

                                                                   - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                    July 12, 1955

Mr. Michael Bigley
Technical Consultant
Board of State Land Commissioners
P.O. Box 12
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 113

Dear Sir:

            In answer to your question regarding the jurisdiction of the board of state land commissioners over oil and gas leases on lands granted to the state for educational purposes, you are advised:

            The board of state land commissioners has general supervision and control over the leasing of state school lands for the extraction of oil, gas or other hydrocarbons and may, as provided in section 3, chapter 217, Laws of 1941, determine the terms upon which such leases shall be granted.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Through the courtesy of the commissioner of public lands, we have been furnished with a copy of a letter of July 5th, 1955 written by private counsel who had been authorized by this office to represent the commissioner of public lands in an action brought by him against the other members of the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] board of state land commissioners in the superior court of Thurston County, in which the Honorable Charles T. Wright found: "The plaintiff must submit proposed leases for approval."

            The letter very concisely and ably sets forth the arguments which could be advanced to sustain the contention that the board has no jurisdiction under chapter 131, Laws of 1955.  They were all advanced in the test case referred to in connection with chapter 203, Laws of 1949 and other acts authorizing the commissioner to execute leases on school lands.  The decision of the court in that case is decisive of the question now raised in connection with chapter 131, Laws of 1955.

            Both chapter 217, Laws of 1941 and chapter 131, Laws of 1955 must be sustained if they can be harmonized, and each word in each of said chapters must be considered and given its ordinary meaning.  The legislature in section 3, chapter 217, Laws of 1941 gave the board general supervision and control over the leasing of school granted lands for any purpose.  This language includes leases of subsurface rights, as well as surface rights, and leases authorized by laws enacted both prior and subsequent to January 13, 1941.

            The commissioner of public lands may issue leases either with or without supervision.  Supervision is provided for in chapter 217, Laws of 1941.  Neither chapter 131, Laws of 1955 nor any other act authorizing the commissioner to execute leases in any way conflicts with the act authorizing supervision of the commissioner in so doing.

            Since the board has the power to dictate the terms of any lease, provided the same are not contrary to law(Malmo v. Case, 28 Wn. (2d) 828, 834), it may fix the terms upon which leases may be granted in advance of the submission of any lease to it for consideration.

            Prior to the effective date of chapter 131, Laws of 1955, we prepared a form of oil and gas lease to be used under the provisions of chapter 131, Laws of 1955 at the request of the commissioner of public lands and on May 26, 1955, we mailed a completed form of such lease to the commissioner of public lands, approving the same for use by the state and calling attention to the fact that appropriate blanks were provided for the insertion of terms fixed  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] by the board of state land commissioners.

            You are advised that oil and gas leases on lands granted to the state for educational purposes are included within the provisions of section 3, chapter 217, Laws of 1941, and that the board of state land commissioners may fix the terms thereof.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

ANDY G. ENGEBRETSEN
Assistant Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo