Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff purchased property on which oil and gas operations had been conducted. Plaintiff filed suit against Hess, asserting claims for damages stemming from contamination caused by the oil- and gas-related activities on the tract. The oil and gas leases expired in 1973 and plaintiff purchased the property in 2007, when all wells had been plugged and abandoned. The district court granted Hess's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the subsequent purchaser rule barred plaintiff's claims. The court explained that a clear consensus has emerged among all Louisiana appellate courts that have considered the issue, and they have held that the subsequent purchaser rule does apply to cases, like this one, involving expired mineral leases. Because this case presented no occasion to depart from precedent, the court deferred to these precedents, and held that the subsequent purchaser doctrine barred plaintiff's claims. The court noted that although the denial of a writ is not necessarily an approval of the appellate court's decision nor precedential, the Louisiana Supreme Court has had multiple opportunities to consider this issue and has repeatedly declined to do so. Finally, the court declined to certify questions to the state court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Guilbeau v. Hess Corp." on Justia Law

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This case centered on a contract dispute between Clean Energy Collective LLC (CEC) and two defendants, Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. (Borrego) and 1115 Solar Development, LLC (1115 Solar). CEC was a Colorado limited liability company; Borrego was a California corporation headquartered in San Diego, and 1115 Solar was a Delaware limited liability company with its principal place of business in California. Borrego was 1115 Solar’s parent company and owned the latter in its entirety. CEC’s claims against Borrego and 1115 Solar arose from an asset purchase agreement (“APA”) to construct several solar photovoltaic projects. The APA specified that CEC would pay defendants to construct three power-generation projects in Massachusetts and allowed for additional projects pursuant to separate contracts governed by the APA’s terms. After the parties were unable to resolve disagreements regarding pricing and payments for projects subject to the APA (all of which were to be completed outside Colorado) CEC sued the defendants in Colorado, asserting claims for breach of contract and breach of warranty. The issue presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the trial court erred in concluding Borrego was subject to general personal jurisdiction in Colorado. Because the trial court did not assess whether Borrego was essentially at home in Colorado, the Court concluded it did not fully apply the test announced in "Magill v. Ford Motor Co.," (379 P.3d 1033), and therefore erred in exercising general personal jurisdiction over Borrego. Applying the complete test itself, the Court concluded Borrego was not subject to general jurisdiction in Colorado. View "In re Clean Energy Collective LLC v. Borrego Solar Sys., Inc." on Justia Law

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Transmissions Owners provide transmission services for customers in New England. Consumers, Massachusetts and various consumer-side stakeholders, filed suit under section 206 of the Federal Power Act (FPA), 16 U.S.C. 824e(a), alleging that Transmission Owners' base return on equity (ROE) had become unjust and unreasonable. At issue are FERC's orders in the section 206 proceeding. Both Transmission Owners and Customers filed petitions for review challenging whether FERC satisfied the statutory requirements under section 206 in setting a new ROE. The court explained that, to satisfy its dual burden under section 206, FERC was required to do more than show that its single ROE analysis generated a new just and reasonable ROE and conclusively declare that, consequently, the existing ROE was per se unjust and unreasonable. Therefore, the court concluded that, because FERC's single ROE analysis failed to include an actual finding as to the lawfulness of Transmission Owners' existing base ROE, FERC acted arbitrarily and outside of its statutory authority in setting a new base ROE for Transmission Owners. The court also concluded that FERC failed to provide any reasoned basis for selecting 10.57 percent as the new base ROE. Accordingly, the court granted the petitions for review, vacated FERC's orders, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Maine v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Nearly 20 years after defendants built, sold, and leased back a Rockport Indiana coal-burning power plant, they committed, in a consent decree resolving lawsuits involving alleged Clean Air Act violations at their other power plants, to either make over a billion dollars of emission control improvements to the plant, or shut it down. The sale and leaseback arrangement was a means of financing construction. Defendants then obtained a modification to the consent decree providing that these improvements need not be made until after their lease expired, pushing their commitments to improve the air quality of the plant’s emissions to the plaintiff, the investors who had financed construction and who would own the plant after the 33-year lease term. The district court held this encumbrance did not violate the parties’ contracts governing the sale and leaseback, and that plaintiff’s breach of contract claims precluded it from maintaining an alternative cause of action for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that a Permitted Lien exception in the lease unambiguously supports the plaintiff’s position and that the defendants’ actions “materially adversely affected’ plaintiff’s interests. View "Wilmington Trust Co. v. AEP Generating Co." on Justia Law

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T-4 permit to Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas, LLC to obtain common-carrier status, which would give it eminent domain authority pursuant to the Natural Resources Code. Denbury Green, which was formed to build and operate a carbon dioxide pipeline known as “the Green Line” as a common carrier in Texas, filed suit against Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd. for an injunction allowing access to certain tracts of land so that it could complete a pipeline survey. While the suit was pending, Denbury Green took possession of Texas Rice’s property pursuant to Tex. Prop. Code 21-021(a). The trial court concluded that Denbury Green was a common carrier with eminent domain authority. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for proceedings consistent with the common-carrier test the Court established. The trial court granted summary judgment for Denbury Green. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that reasonable mind could differ regarding whether, at the time Denbury Green intended to build the Green Line, a reasonable probability existed that Green Line would serve the public. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment, holding that Denbury Green is a common carrier as a matter of law. View "Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas, LLC v. Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a major producer of solar power, challenged the Commission's order denying its effort to obtain financial instruments known as Congestion Revenue Rights. The court concluded that FERC erroneously determined that the relevant contract and tariff provisions unambiguously foreclose petitioner's request. In this case, the court held that FERC overlooked an ambiguity in the Interconnection Agreement. Therefore, the court remanded to the Commission so that it may consider the question in light of the ambiguity. View "NextEra Desert Center Blythe v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Charles Robinson, Paul Robinson, and William Robinson appealed an amended judgment granting summary judgment in favor of THR Minerals, LLC, and deciding ownership of mineral and royalty interests in certain property. The Supreme Court concluded the assignment of royalty at issue was unambiguous, and the district court did not err as a matter of law in construing the assignment to decide the ownership of the subject mineral and royalty interests between the parties. View "THR Minerals, LLC. v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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Casey Voigt appealed a judgment affirming the Public Service Commission's ("Commission") order that affirmed its conditional approval of a surface coal mining permit for Coyote Creek Mining Company, L.L.C. ("Company"). The Supreme Court concluded the Commission's order complied with applicable law requiring identification and protection of "alluvial valley floors" and sufficiently addressed Voigt's evidence. Furthermore, the Court concluded the Commission's conclusions of law regarding the lack of "alluvial valley floors" within or adjacent to the permit area was supported by the findings of fact and that reasonable minds could have determined the Commission's findings of fact were proved by the weight of the evidence from the entire record. View "Voigt v. N.D. Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against oil and gas companies and their insurers, claiming that the companies' dredging activities caused damage to the fisheries the fishermen used. The district court granted summary judgment for Florida Gas and Southern Natural because plaintiffs did not create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the companies' activities constituted "dredging" so as to support maritime tort claims. The district court then denied plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration. The court affirmed the district court's judgment as to Florida Gas because none of plaintiffs' evidence created a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Florida Gas participated in dredging activities. However, the court reversed the district court's judgment as to Southern Natural because plaintiffs presented new, conclusive evidence in their motion for reconsideration pertaining to Southern Natural that they were justified in not presenting earlier. In this case, plaintiffs provided three types of new evidence upon reconsideration: Southern Natural's deposition transcript; documentary evidence offered during Southern Natural's deposition; and Southern Natural's responses to requests for admission. The court disagreed with the district court's analysis, particularly as it pertained to Southern Natural's deposition transcript and responses to requests for admission. The court explained that these items were clearly probative and, if the district court would have considered the contents of Southern Natural's deposition or its admissions, plaintiffs would have defeated summary judgment as to Southern Natural. View "In Re: Louisiana Crawfish Producers" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a merger agreement under which two companies involved in the gas pipeline business, Energy Transfer Equity, L.P. (“ETE”), agreed to acquire the assets of The Williams Companies, Inc., (“Williams”). The Merger Agreement signed by Williams and ETE contemplated two steps: (1) Williams would merge into a new entity, Energy Transfer Corp LP (“ETC”); and (2) the transfer of Williams’ assets to ETE in exchange for Class E partnership units “would” be a tax-free exchange of a partnership interest for assets under Section 721(a) of the Internal Revenue Code. After the parties entered into the Agreement, the energy market suffered a severe decline which caused a significant loss in the value of assets of the type held by Williams and ETE. This caused the transaction to become financially undesirable to ETE. This issue ultimately led to ETE’s tax counsel, Latham & Watkins, LLP (Latham) being unwilling to issue the 721 opinion. Since the 721 opinion was a condition of the transaction, ETE indicated that it would not proceed with the merger. Williams then sought to enjoin ETE from terminating the Merger Agreement. The Court of Chancery rejected Williams’ arguments. After review, the Supreme Court found the Court of Chancery adopted an unduly narrow view of the obligations imposed by the covenants in the Agreement. The Supreme Court agreed with Williams that if a proper analysis of ETE’s covenants led to a conclusion that ETE breached those covenants, the burden would have shifted to ETE to prove that its breaches did not materially contribute to the failure of the closing condition. Since the facts as found by the Court of Chancery were that ETE’s lack of conduct did not contribute to Latham’s decision not to issue the 721 opinion, the Supreme Court was satisfied that when the burden of proving that ETE’s alleged breach of covenants is properly placed on it, ETE did meet its burden of proving that any alleged breach of covenant did not materially contribute to the failure of the Latham condition. The Court also agrees with the Court of Chancery’s finding that ETE was not estopped from terminating the Agreement. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Chancery was affirmed. View "Williams Companies, Inc. v. Energy Transfer Equity, L.P." on Justia Law