§22-6B-1. Legislative findings and purpose; applicability.

     (a) The Legislature finds the following:

     (1) Exploration for and development of oil and gas reserves in this state must coexist with the use, agricultural or otherwise, of the surface of certain land and that each constitutes a right equal to the other.

     (2) The surface owner of lands on which horizontal wells are drilled shall be compensated for damages to the surface of the land pursuant to the provisions of this article.

     (b) The Legislature declares that the public policy of this state shall be that the compensation and damages provided in this article for surface owners may not be diminished by any provision in a deed, lease or other contract of conveyance entered into after December 31, 2011.

     (c) It is the purpose of this article to provide Constitutionally permissible protection and compensation to surface owners of lands on which horizontal wells are drilled from the burden resulting from drilling operations commenced after January 1, 2012. This article is to be interpreted in the light of the legislative intent expressed herein. This article shall be interpreted to benefit surface owners, regardless of whether the oil and gas mineral estate was separated from the surface estate and regardless of who executed the document which gave the oil and gas developer the right to conduct drilling operations on the land. Section four of this article shall be interpreted to benefit all persons.

     (d) The provisions of this article apply to any natural gas well, other than a coalbed methane well, drilled using a horizontal drilling method, and which disturbs three acres or more of surface, excluding pipelines, gathering lines and roads or uses more than two hundred ten thousand gallons of water in any thirty-day period. Article seven of this chapter does not apply to any damages associated with the drilling of a horizontal well.