The Portal to Texas History 2019 Research Fellowship Awardee - Trey Murphy

This is an archived news item. Links may no longer be active.

The University of North Texas Libraries invite applications for the 2020 The Portal to Texas History Research Fellowship. Research using the Portal is relevant to studies in a variety of disciplines including history, journalism, political science, geography, and American studies. We encourage applicants to think creatively about the opportunities that research with large digital library collections can enable. Preference will be given to applicants who demonstrate the greatest potential for publication and the best use of The Portal to Texas History.

The Portal to Texas History 2019 Research Fellowship Awardee

Trey Murphy

Project Title

The Petroleum Governance of Property through the Texas Relinquishment Act of 1919

Project Description

Land ownership in Texas is complex in that the subsurface and the surface can be held by different individuals, which can lead to oil wells in someone’s backyards for which the homeowner receives no payment. A century ago, the Texas state legislature passed the Relinquishment Act, which created a compensation scheme for surface property owners when the state government owns the subsurface. This project explores and looks to the Relinquishment Act as a potential solution to present-day questions over who should benefit from extraction when the surface and subsurface of the same parcel of land are owned by different people.


Trey Murphy is an energy geographer and PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina where he examines the intrinsic relationship between the governance of petroleum extraction and Texas property ownership. To conduct this investigation, Trey uses a combination of semi-structured interviews with mineral rights stakeholders, archival research of Texas state legislative and judicial history, as well as participant-observation collected at mineral ownership conferences. His research has been featured on NPR, Texas Monthly Online, and the Houston Chronicle.