Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

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Whitetail Wave LLC, a Montana Limited Liability Company, sued XTO Energy, Inc., a Delaware corporation, the Board of University and School Lands of the State of North Dakota, the State of North Dakota, and the Department of Water Resources and its Director. Whitetail Wave claimed ownership of certain property in McKenzie County, North Dakota, and alleged that XTO Energy had breached their lease agreement by failing to make required royalty payments. Whitetail Wave also claimed that the State's assertion of an interest in the mineral interests associated with the property constituted an unconstitutional taking without just compensation.The District Court of McKenzie County granted summary judgment in favor of the State and XTO Energy. The court concluded that the State owned certain mineral interests within the ordinary high watermark as defined by North Dakota law. The court also found that XTO Energy was within the safe harbor provision provided by North Dakota law and did not breach the parties’ lease agreement when it withheld the royalty payments. The court awarded XTO Energy recovery of its attorney’s fees.On appeal, the Supreme Court of North Dakota affirmed the judgment of the district court. The Supreme Court found that the district court did not err in dismissing Whitetail Wave's claim of an unconstitutional taking against the State, as the State's actions were limited to a title dispute. The Supreme Court also found that the district court did not err in dismissing Whitetail Wave's claim against XTO Energy for the non-payment of royalties, as XTO Energy fell within the safe harbor provision of North Dakota law. Finally, the Supreme Court found that the district court did not err in awarding XTO Energy a recovery of its attorney’s fees as the prevailing party. View "Whitetail Wave v. XTO Energy" on Justia Law

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The case involves two separate petitions for review of decisions made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to grant extensions of time for the completion of natural gas pipeline projects. The petitioners are Sierra Club and Public Citizen, and the respondents are FERC and the project developers, National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation, Empire Pipeline Inc., Cheniere Corpus Christi Pipeline L.P, and Corpus Christi Liquefaction LLC.The petitions primarily contend that FERC was overly generous in finding "good cause" to grant extensions for the completion of the pipeline projects. The petitioners argue that due to changes in circumstances, such as the introduction of New York's 2019 Climate Act, FERC was obliged to reconsider its original findings of market need for the projects.The court upheld FERC's decisions, finding that it exercised its broad discretion reasonably in both cases. It concluded that FERC's determinations of "good cause" were supported by the record, including National Fuel's litigation over water-quality certification and Cheniere's disrupted investment decision due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The court also found that FERC appropriately decided not to reevaluate its prior findings of market need for the pipeline projects. The court ruled that the petitioners' proposed stricter approach to assessing extension requests was unsupported by the Natural Gas Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. Therefore, the petitions for review were denied. View "Sierra Club v. FERC" on Justia Law

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In this case, a group of electricity providers challenged orders by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), arguing that FERC allowed a new auction rule to apply retroactively to a pending auction. The auction was overseen by PJM Interconnection L.L.C., a FERC-regulated wholesale market operator. PJM had halted the auction upon realizing that the results could lead to a high clearing price for a particular region due to a faulty assumption regarding the participation of certain resources. PJM sought and received permission from FERC to amend the tariff to allow it to adjust the Locational Deliverability Area (LDA) Reliability Requirement downward, reflecting the lack of participation of certain resources.The petitioners argued that this violated the filed rate doctrine, which prohibits retroactive rates. The court agreed, finding that the tariff amendment was retroactive because it altered the legal consequence attached to a past action: it allowed for the use of a different LDA Reliability Requirement than the one PJM had calculated and posted. The court noted that equitable considerations did not factor into the application of the filed rate doctrine, emphasizing the importance of predictability in the electricity markets.The court granted the petitions and vacated the orders in relevant part, specifically the portion of FERC’s orders that permitted PJM to apply the tariff amendment to the 2024/25 capacity auction. View "Constellation Energy Generation LLC v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Several power providers and their associations challenged orders from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that retroactively permitted a new auction rule to apply to a pending auction. The rule was implemented by PJM Interconnection L.L.C., the entity responsible for the auction, to determine the auction's results. The petitioners claimed FERC's orders violated the filed rate doctrine, which prohibits retroactive rates. The case background involves the Federal Power Act (FPA), which grants FERC exclusive jurisdiction over rates for the transmission and wholesale of electric energy in interstate commerce. The FPA requires all related rates, rules, and regulations to be "just and reasonable" and not unduly preferential.The petitioners and FERC agreed that the filed rate was the PJM Open Access Transmission Tariff, which sets the procedures governing PJM’s capacity auctions. PJM administered a capacity auction in December 2022 for capacity in the June 2024 – May 2025 period. A dispute arose when PJM sought to adjust the Locational Deliverability Area (LDA) Reliability Requirement due to perceived anomalies in the auction results, which would have resulted in a high clearing price for a certain region. FERC approved the proposed adjustment, which was challenged by the petitioners.The court agreed with the petitioners and held that the orders of FERC were retroactive and thus violated the filed rate doctrine. The court granted the petitions and vacated the orders in the relevant part. The court emphasized that the equities play no role in the application of the filed rate doctrine and that predictability is of paramount importance in electricity markets. It concluded that FERC’s disregard of the filed rate doctrine creates unpredictability in the markets and may ultimately harm consumers who buy electricity in those markets. View "Electric Power Supply Association v. FERC" on Justia Law

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A group of power providers contested orders from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that permitted a new auction rule to retroactively apply to a pending auction. The petitioners argued that this violated the filed rate doctrine, which forbids retroactive rates. The auction, administered by the PJM Interconnection LLC (PJM), aimed to ensure reliable electric supply at competitive prices. PJM halted the auction, seeking FERC's permission to amend certain auction parameters it had already posted, which, if left uncorrected, might have led to a high clearing price for a specific region. FERC approved the amendment and allowed it to apply to the halted auction, which the petitioners challenged. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed with the petitioners, stating that the amendment was retroactive as it altered the legal consequence attached to PJM's past action in the auction. The court granted the petitions and vacated the portion of FERC's orders that allowed the amendment to apply to the auction in question. View "NRG Power Marketing v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute over the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) allowing a new auction rule to apply retroactively to a pending auction. This auction was administered by PJM Interconnection L.L.C., an entity responsible for running the auction. The petitioners, electric suppliers and their trade associations, contended that FERC's orders violated the filed rate doctrine, which forbids retroactive rates.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that the Tariff Amendment was retroactive because it altered the legal consequence attached to a past action when it allowed PJM to use a different Locational Deliverability Area (LDA) Reliability Requirement than the one it had calculated and posted. The court noted that the Tariff Amendment, therefore, violated the filed rate doctrine.The court ruled that the doctrine's predictability is crucial because electricity markets depend on it. FERC’s disregard of the filed rate doctrine created unpredictability in the markets, potentially eroding confidence in the markets and ultimately harming consumers who buy electricity in those markets.The court granted the petitions for review and vacated the portion of FERC’s orders that allowed PJM to apply the Tariff Amendment to the 2024/25 capacity auction. View "Constellation Energy Generation LLC v. FERC" on Justia Law

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This case involved several petitioners challenging orders of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which allowed a new auction rule to retroactively apply to an auction that was already underway. The auction was managed by PJM Interconnection L.L.C. (PJM), which ran the auction based on a tariff (filed rate) that set out specific procedures. The petitioners argued that FERC's orders violated the filed rate doctrine, which prohibits retroactive rates.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed with the petitioners. The court found that the new rule was retroactive because it altered the legal consequences attached to past actions. Specifically, the rule allowed PJM to use a different Locational Deliverability Area (LDA) Reliability Requirement than the one it had calculated and posted.The court noted that, while FERC's orders were seemingly intended to prevent potential economic harm to consumers, the filed rate doctrine's emphasis on predictability and the necessity of adherence to approved rates were paramount. The court concluded that FERC's orders, by allowing a change to the rules of an auction already in progress, introduced unpredictability into the electricity market, potentially eroding market confidence.Therefore, the court granted the petitions for review and vacated the portion of FERC's orders that allowed PJM to apply the new rule to the auction that was already underway. The court did not strike down the rule entirely, leaving open the possibility of it being applied to future auctions. View "Electric Power Supply Association v. FERC" on Justia Law

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In this case, a group of electricity suppliers and their trade associations challenged orders of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that permitted PJM Interconnection L.L.C., a wholesale market operator, to apply a new auction rule retroactively to a pending auction. The petitioners argued that FERC's orders violated the filed rate doctrine, which prohibits retroactive rates. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed and granted the petitions, vacating the relevant parts of the orders.The central issue revolved around the Locational Deliverability Area (LDA) Reliability Requirement, a key parameter in PJM's auction process. Prior to the auction, PJM had miscalculated the LDA Reliability Requirement, which led to a potential price increase for a specific region. To correct this, PJM sought FERC's permission to amend the tariff to allow for a downward adjustment of the LDA Reliability Requirement. FERC granted this permission, allowing the new rule to apply to the ongoing auction, which the petitioners argued was a retroactive change in violation of the filed rate doctrine.The court found that the tariff amendment was indeed retroactive as it altered the legal consequence attached to a past action, specifically, PJM's calculation and posting of the LDA Reliability Requirement. The court held that the filed rate doctrine did not yield to equities and that the tariff amendment's retroactivity created instability in the electricity market. Consequently, the court vacated the portion of FERC's orders that allowed PJM to apply the tariff amendment to the 2024/25 capacity auction. View "NRG Business Marketing LLC v. FERC" on Justia Law

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In a case involving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and a group of petitioners, the petitioners challenged FERC's decision to allow a new auction rule to be applied retroactively. The auction in question, run by PJM Interconnection LLC, determines the selling price for electricity. The petitioners argued that the retroactive application of the new rule violated the filed rate doctrine, which prohibits retroactive rates.The court agreed with the petitioners, granting their petitions and vacating the orders in question. The court found that the new rule was retroactive because it changed the legal consequence of a past action, specifically the calculation and posting of the Locational Deliverability Area (LDA) Reliability Requirement. The LDA Reliability Requirement is a parameter used in the auction to determine the amount of electricity that must be produced to meet peak demand.The court noted that while the new rule allowed PJM to adjust the LDA Reliability Requirement downward to account for certain resources' lack of participation in the auction, the original tariff did not provide for this adjustment. Therefore, the new rule altered the legal consequence of the past action of calculating and posting the LDA Reliability Requirement.The court concluded that the retroactive application of the new rule violated the filed rate doctrine, and therefore FERC's approval of the rule was not in accordance with the law. The court emphasized that the doctrine's goal of predictability is of utmost importance and that FERC and the courts must respect the doctrine to ensure stability in the markets. As a result, only the portion of FERC's orders that allowed the new rule to be applied to the specific 2024/25 capacity auction was vacated. View "PJM Power Providers Group v. FERC" on Justia Law

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In the case at hand, the defendant, Christopher Condron, was convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States by obtaining payment for false claims. He had been involved in submitting applications to the United States Department of the Treasury for grant money in connection with supposed renewable energy projects. The applications were submitted on behalf of four different companies, which were created under the name of his then-girlfriend, Jessica Metivier.Condron appealed his conviction on three main grounds: 1) He argued that there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction on all counts. 2) He claimed that the government's argument and evidence at trial constructively amended, or at least prejudicially varied from, one of the wire fraud counts. 3) He contended that the district court abused its discretion when it limited his cross-examination of a key government witness.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected all three arguments and affirmed Condron's conviction. It found that there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction, that the government did not constructively amend or prejudicially vary from the indictment, and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in limiting Condron's cross-examination of a key government witness. View "US v. Condron" on Justia Law