Adela Gondek: Understanding Mineral Rights on Inherited Land

Grist, an environmental media outlet based in Seattle, occasionally publishes an advice column titled Ask Umbra. Journalist Eve Andrews interviewed Master of Science in Sustainability Management faculty member Dr. Adela Gondek and incorporated her thoughts regarding a question concerning mineral rights on land inherited in West Virginia.

The question reads: “My siblings and I recently inherited mineral rights on our mother’s property in West Virginia. We’ve already been contacted to lease them to an energy company for drilling. What should we do?”

When thinking about climate change, Gondek asks people to consider: “Are you thinking of more people than just those in your family, or your tribe, or your country? Are you thinking of other people, too, even if they’re harder to imagine?”

In short, Gondek lists a series of choices, some more environmentally friendly than others. If you allow an energy company to drill on your land, there’s a chance nearby water sources and the air will be contaminated. This could negatively impact the people who depend on them and cause greater problems. On the other hand, leasing mineral rights can lead to enormous profit without much effort. Or, people can choose to donate the rights to an environmental organization.

The situation holds potential for a significant form of climate change activism, but the end decision ultimately depends on the person who inherited the land.

Read the full story at Grist and learn more about the M.S. in Sustainability Management program at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies.