Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing two lawsuits brought by Black Diamond Energy of Delaware, Inc. (BDED) in an attempt to challenge the forfeiture of its bonds by the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, holding that the complaint in Case No. 2017-0074 was outside the scope of 30-5-113(a) and that the complaint in Case No. 2018-0011 was brought in the wrong venue. BDED, an oil and gas exploration company, secured a Wyoming oil and gas lease by posting bonds with the Commission and the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments. After the Commission ordered the bonds forfeited, BDED did not seek administrative review but, instead filed these lawsuits claiming that certain statutes authorized the direct action. The district court dismissed both lawsuits on the ground that BDED had failed to comply with the Wyoming Administrative Procedures Act. The Supreme Court affirmed but on different grounds, holding (1) BDED's complaint against the Commission in Case No. 2017-0074 was not properly brought pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. 30-5-113(a); and (2) BDED did not bring its Wyoming Governmental Claims Act complaint in Case No. 2018-0011 in the proper venue. View "Black Diamond Energy of Delaware Inc. v. Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission" on Justia Law

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BGE petitioned for review of FERC's orders arising out of its efforts to apply its "matching" principles to divergences between the timing of deductions for tax purposes and timing for purposes of allocating costs to ratepayers. BGE filed a new rate proposal seeking a net recovery of $38 million and FERC denied BGE's request. FERC concluded that BGE had breached the requirements of Order No. 144 by failing to file for recovery in its "next rate case," which, according to FERC, was BGE's 2005 rate filing. BGE countered that FERC's application of Order No. 144 was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. The DC Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that FERC's orders were not arbitrary and capricious. The court held that FERC reasonably interpreted its regulations and the settlement agreement to mean that BGE simply failed to comply with 18 C.F.R. 35.24 by its next rate case, as required by Order No. 144. The court rejected BGE's argument that, notwithstanding the requirements of Order No. 144, FERC has been more permissive with four "similarly situated" utilities and fails to explain its disparate treatment of BGE's filing. Therefore, FERC's rejection of BGE's tariff filing is a reasonable and reasonably explained application of Order No. 144. View "Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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Defendants own the surface of land sitting atop the property leased by Petro Harvestor. When the lease expired, Petro Harvestor sought a declaratory judgment that it could continue to operate its oil and gas activities on the property. Defendants claimed that the Surface Lease required Petro Harvester to return the surface land to its pre-lease condition upon expiration, requiring that Petro Harvester remove its machinery and vacate the property. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Petro Harvestor, holding that the district court correctly held that the Surface Lease here does not supersede the Mineral Lease; the district court properly rejected defendants' affirmative defenses of waiver, ratification, and estoppel; Mississippi's statute of limitations does not bar Petro Harvester's declaratory judgment action; and defendants waived any argument that there are genuine issues of material fact that preclude summary judgment. View "Petro Harvester Operating Co. v. Keith" on Justia Law

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Appellee-defendant TEP Rocky Mountain, LLC (“TEP”) operated wells that produced natural gas in Colorado. These wells were subject to various leases or royalty Appellant-intervenors Ivo Lindauer, Sidney Lindauer, Ruther Lindauer, and Diamond Minerals LLC (the “Lindauers” or the “Intervenors”), were the representatives for a class of royalty owners who filed suit in 2006 in Colorado state court, alleging that TEP had underpaid royalties on various leases and royalty agreements. In 2008, TEP and the Lindauer class entered into a settlement agreement (the “Lindauer SA”) purporting to “resolve all class claims relating to past calculation of royalt[ies]” and to “establish certain rules to govern future royalty” payments. The Lindauer SA declared that the state court would retain “continuing jurisdiction” to enforce provisions of the settlement related to “the description of past and future royalty methodologies.” Approximately eight years passed, free of incident. But on July 18, 2017, a subset of the Lindauer class (the “Sefcovic class”) initiated this action against TEP in Colorado state court, alleging that TEP had calculated and paid royalties in a manner inconsistent with the Lindauer SA and contrary to the underlying royalty agreements. TEP removed the case to federal court. Appellants intervened in the district court, seeking to dismiss the action for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction. Through two separate motions to dismiss, the briefing from both parties "confused the bounds of federal subject matter jurisdiction and conflated that concept with the doctrines of abstention and comity, and with matters of venue and forum." Despite this misdirection, the district court properly exercised jurisdiction and rebuffed appellants’ attempts to unwind nearly eighteen months of class action litigation. After review, the Tenth Circuit concurred with the district court's judgment and affirmed it. View "Elna Sefcovic v. TEP Rocky Mountain" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Maine Public Utilities Commission granting Central Maine Power Company's (CMP) petition for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) for the construction and operation of the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project, holding that the Commission followed the proper procedure and that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the Commission's findings. In 2017, CMP filed a petition with the Commission for a CPCN for the NECEC project, a 145-mile transmission line. The Commission voted to grant CMP a CPCN for the construction and operation of the NECEC project. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission did not commit legal error when it decided that CMP was not required to file the results of a third-party investigation into nontransmission alternatives; (2) the Commission did not err in its construction and application of Me. Rev. Stat. 35-A, 3132(6); and (3) the Commission did not abuse its discretion in approving a stipulation between the parties requiring the project to provide myriad benefits to ratepayers and the State as conditions to the recommended Commission approval of the stipulated findings and issuance of the CPCN. View "NextEra Energy Resources, LLC v. Maine Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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In this challenge to a zoning ordinance prohibiting industrial mineral operations within Winona County the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the district granting summary judgment to the County on all of Minnesota Sands, LLC's claims, holding that the ordinance was constitutional. Minnesota Sands, a mining company, sought to mine and process silica sand in the County. Minnesota Sands sued the County requesting declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief. The district court granted summary judgment to the County. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the ordinance did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause or work an unconstitutional taking of Minnesota Sands' property interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Minnesota Sands had standing to bring this case; (2) the County's ordinance did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause on its face, in purpose or in effect; and (3) Minnesota Sands' takings claims failed because the property interests it claimed were taken by the County had not yet accrued. View "Minnesota Sands, LLC v. County of Winona, Minnesota" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's remand order and held that the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442, does not provide a proper basis for removal in a climate-change lawsuit against oil and gas companies. The court first held that Noel v. McCain, 538 F.2d 633 (4th Cir. 1976), remains binding precedent in this circuit and dismissed this appeal for lack of jurisdiction, insofar as it seeks to challenge the district court's determination with respect to the propriety of removal based on federal-question, Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, admiralty, and bankruptcy jurisdiction. Although the court had jurisdiction to review the federal officer removal statute claim, the court agreed with Baltimore that none of the three contractual relationships defendants pointed to were sufficient to justify removal under the federal officer removal statute in this case, either because they failed to satisfy the acting-under prong or because they were insufficiently related to Baltimore's claims for purposes of the nexus prong. View "Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. BP P.L.C." on Justia Law

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In this appeal stemming from the Deepwater Horizon litigation, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting discretionary review and affirming a $77 million award against BP. The court held that the district court failed to consider investigating credible evidence of a sole, superseding cause for the claimant's loss. Furthermore, the district court's decision was made without the benefit of this circuit's guidance on causation. In this case, claimant is a global commodities merchandiser that purchases and supplies ammonia and fertilizers around the world. BP argued that claimant passed the V-Shaped Revenue Pattern due solely to a price spike and drop in the price of fertilizer that was unrelated to the oil spill. The court remanded for the district court to examine the issue in the first instance and to determine whether to remand to the Claims Administrator for additional factfinding. View "BP Exploration & Production, Inc. v. Claimant ID 100191715" on Justia Law

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In 1938, West’s predecessor granted Louisville Gas & Electric’s predecessor a perpetual easement permitting a 248-foot-tall tower carrying high-voltage electric lines. In 1990, Louisville sought permission to allow Charter Communication install on the towers a fiber-optic cable that carries communications (telephone service, cable TV service, and internet data); West refused. In 2000 Louisville concluded that the existing easement allows the installation of wires that carry photons (fiber-optic cables) along with the wires that carry electrons. West disagreed and filed suit, seeking compensation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that the use that Louisville and Charter have jointly made of the easement is permissible under Indiana law. The court cited 47 U.S.C. 541(a)(2), part of the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984, which provides: Any franchise shall be construed to authorize the construction of a cable system over public rights-of-way, and through easements, which is within the area to be served by the cable system and which have been dedicated for compatible uses, except that in using such easements the cable operator shall ensure…. The court examined the language of the easement and stated: “At least the air rights have been “dedicated” to transmission, and a telecom cable is “compatible” with electric transmission. Both photons and electrons are in the electromagnetic spectrum.” View "West v. Charter Communications, Inc." on Justia Law

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RW Trucking pumped fracking water from frac tanks at oil-well sites and hauled it away for disposal. Jason Metz worked as a driver for RW Trucking. When his trailer reached capacity, Metz turned off the pump and disengaged the hose. According to Metz, he then left a ticket in the truck of another well-site worker, David Garza. Metz testified that as he began walking back to his truck’s cab from its passenger side, and about sixty feet from the frac tanks, he flicked his lighter to light a cigarette. This ignited fumes and caused a flash fire that injured Garza (as well as Metz and another nearby RW Trucking employee). In this appeal and cross-appeal, the issue presented for the Tenth Circuit's review was which of two insurers’ insurance policies covered bodily injuries. Carolina Casualty Insurance Company and Burlington Insurance Company had earlier issued policies to RW Trucking. By design, the two policies dovetailed each other’s coverage. Each insurer contended that the other was solely liable to indemnify the insureds, RW Trucking and Metz, for damages arising from Garza’s bodily injuries suffered in the fire. After Burlington and Carolina jointly settled Garza’s claims, with each reserving its rights against the other, Carolina filed this declaratory-judgment action, contending that it had no duty to defend or indemnify RW Trucking or Metz, and seeking reimbursement of its paid portion of Garza’s settlement. On cross motions for summary judgment, the district court ruled: (1) that Carolina owed a duty to defend but not a duty to indemnify; (2) Burlington owed a duty to indemnify (and so implicitly, also a duty to defend); (3) that Carolina paid its share of the settlement as a volunteer, disabling itself from recovering its portion of the settlement payment from Burlington; and (4) that Carolina owed Burlington for half the total defense costs. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court as to the duty-to-defend and voluntary-payment issues, and affirmed on the duty-to-indemnify issue. The Court remanded with the instruction that the district court vacate its judgment granting Burlington reimbursement of half its defense costs. View "Carolina Casualty Ins. Co. v. Burlington Ins. Co." on Justia Law