Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

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In this quiet title action involving the mineral interests in two tracts of real estate, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that the grantees' successors in interest obtained ownership of minerals when twenty years expired without production on the property, holding that the common-law rule against perpetuities (the rule) should not be applicable to the circumstances of this case. The tracts at issue were conveyed by deeds in which the grantor excepted the mineral interests for a "period of 20 years or as long thereafter" as minerals may be produced. The grantor's successors in interest claimed full ownership of the mineral interest in both tracts, arguing that the future ownership of the minerals when the grantor's excepted term interest ended violated the rule, thereby voiding those conveyances ab initial and preventing them from devolving to the grantees' successors in interest. The district court concluded that the grantees' heirs obtained ownership of the minerals when twenty years expired without production on the property. The Supreme Court affirmed on different grounds, holding that the rule did not apply under these circumstances. View "Jason Oil Co. v. Littler" on Justia Law

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A group of menhaden fishermen challenged the denial of their claims pursuant to a punitive damages settlement agreement between a class of claimants, who alleged that they were harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and defendants. As a preliminary matter, the Fifth Circuit granted the Fishermen's motion to take judicial notice of the docket and complaint in Bruhmuller v. BP Exploration & Production Inc. The court held that the magistrate judge did not err by affirming the denial of Fishermen's claims, because the Fishermen did not attempt to comply with Pretrial Order 60 at any point throughout these proceedings. The court also held that the district court did not err in declining to review the magistrate judge's decision, and the district court did not err in denying the Fishermen's Rule 60(b) motion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Lake Eugenie Land & Development, Inc. v. Halliburton Energy Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Two federal district courts certified questions of law to the Alaska Supreme Court involving the state’s “mineral dump lien” statute. In 1910, the United States Congress passed Alaska’s first mineral dump lien statute, granting laborers a lien against a “dump or mass” of hard-rock minerals for their work creating the dump. The mineral dump lien statute remained substantively unchanged since, and rarely have issues involving the statute arisen. The Supreme Court accepted certified questions from both the United States District Court and the United States Bankruptcy Court regarding the scope of the mineral dump lien statute as applied to natural gas development. Cook Inlet Energy, LLC operated oil and gas wells in southcentral Alaska. In November 2014, Cook Inlet contracted with All American Oilfield, LLC to “drill, complete, engineer and/or explore three wells” on Cook Inlet’s oil and gas leaseholds. All American began work soon thereafter, including drilling rig operations, digging holes, casing, and completing the gas wells. When All American concluded its work the following summer, Cook Inlet was unable to pay. In June 2015 All American recorded liens against Cook Inlet, including a mine lien under AS 34.35.125 and a mineral dump lien under AS 34.35.140. In October, after its creditors filed an involuntary petition for relief, Cook Inlet consented to Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. In January 2016 All American filed an adversary proceeding in the bankruptcy court “to determine the validity and priority of its secured claims.” The bankruptcy court found that All American has a valid mine lien against the three wells. But the court denied All American’s asserted mineral dump lien against unextracted gas remaining in natural reservoirs. The court also concluded that All American’s mine lien was subordinate to Cook Inlet’s secured creditors’ prior liens, which would have consumed all of Cook Inlet’s assets and leave All American with nothing. All American appealed to the federal district court, which, in turn, certified questions regarding the Alaska mineral dump lien statute. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the statutory definition of “dump or mass” reflected that a mineral dump lien could extend only to gas extracted from its natural reservoir, that the lien may cover produced gas contained in a pipeline if certain conditions are met, and that to obtain a dump lien laborers must demonstrate that their work aided, broadly, in gas production. View "In re: Cook Inlet Energy, LLC, Gebhardt, v. Inman" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order and judgment upholding the Water Board's determination that Barclay was jointly and severally responsible with real party in interest Shell Oil for the cleanup and abatement of petroleum hydrocarbon compounds and other contaminants (the petroleum residue or waste) at the former Shell tank farm in Carson, California. The court rejected Barclay's claims that the Water Board failed to hold the type of hearing required by the Administrative Procedure Act and its Administrative Bill of Rights; the payments Shell made to the Water Board constituted a conflict of interest tainting the proceedings and the RCAO; Barclay's actions are protected by the safe harbor of Water Code section 13304, subdivision (j); Barclay did not cause or permit a discharge of waste because its actions were not performed with the required knowledge of the hazards created; and the trial court erred in refusing to admit and consider additional evidence proffered by Barclay. View "Barclay Hollander Corp. v. California Regional Water Quality Control Board" on Justia Law

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Antero Resources Company and South Jersey Gas Company entered into an eight-year contract for Antero to deliver natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation to gas meters located on the Columbia Pipeline in West Virginia. The parties tied gas pricing to the Columbia Appalachia Index.During performance of the contract, the price of natural gas linked to the Index increased. South Jersey contested the higher prices, arguing that modifications to the Index materially changed the pricing methodology, and that the Index should be replaced with one that reflected the original agreement. Antero disagreed. South Jersey then sued Antero in New Jersey state court for failing to negotiate a replacement index, and began paying a lower price based on a different index. Antero then sued South Jersey in federal district court in Colorado, where its principal place of business was located, for breach of contract for its failure to pay the Index price. The lawsuits were consolidated in Colorado and the case proceeded to trial. The jury rejected South Jersey’s claims, finding South Jersey breached the contract and Antero was entitled to $60 million damages. South Jersey argued on appeal the district court erred in denying its motion for judgment in its favor as a matter of law, or, alternatively, that the court erred in instructing the jury. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, finding a reasonable jury could find South Jersey breached its contract with Antero because the Index was not discontinued nor did it materially change. Furthermore, the Court found no defects in the jury instructions. View "Antero Resources Corp. v. South Jersey Resources Group" on Justia Law

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Suits over oil and gas leases on allotted trust lands are governed by federal law, not tribal law, and the tribal court lacks jurisdiction over the nonmember oil and gas companies. This appeal involved a dispute over the practice of flaring natural gas from oil wells, and at issue was the scope of Native American tribal court authority over nonmembers. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining the tribal court plaintiffs and tribal court judicial officials and held that the district court correctly rejected the tribal court officials' argument that this suit was barred by tribal sovereign immunity. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction because the oil and gas companies are likely to prevail on the merits. In this case, the district court correctly concluded that the oil and gas companies exhausted their tribal court remedies by moving to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction and appealing the issue to the MHA Nation Supreme Court; the district court correctly concluded that the tribal court lacked jurisdiction over the oil and gas companies; and the balance of the remaining preliminary injunction factors, along with the oil and gas companies' strong likelihood of success on the merits, showed that the district court did not abuse its discretion by granting the preliminary injunction. View "Kodiak Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. v. Burr" on Justia Law

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The Energy Facility Siting Council modified its rules that govern amending site certificates. Petitioners challenged the validity of the new rules, arguing that the council failed to comply with required rulemaking procedures and that the rules exceeded the council’s statutory authority. FAfter review of petitioners' challenges, the Oregon Supreme Court agreed with some, but not all, of those grounds and concluded that the rules were invalid. View "Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun." on Justia Law

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After Whistler entered into a drilling contract with Nabors, Whistler entered into bankruptcy proceedings and rejected the contract. Nabors subsequently sought administrative priority in the bankruptcy proceeding for expenses incurred after the rejection of its contract, and the bankruptcy court granted the request in part and denied in part. The Fifth Circuit held that a creditor can establish that its expenses are attributable to the actions of the bankruptcy estate through evidence of either a direct request from the debtor-in-possession or other inducement via the knowing and voluntary post-petition acceptance of desired goods or services. The court clarified that when the debtor-in-possession induces availability and the bankruptcy estate derives a benefit from it, the ordinary cost of ensuring such availability qualifies as an administrative expense. The court remanded for the bankruptcy court to determine (1) whether Whistler induced Nabors to stay on the platform; (2) the length of time Nabors stayed on the platform because of Whistler's post-petition needs; and (3) the actual and necessary costs of staying on the platform during this time period. The court left it to the bankruptcy court to clarify its own findings regarding Nabors's provision of services. Finally, the court affirmed the bankruptcy court's denial of Nabors' requests for administrative priority in full. View "Nabors Offshore Corp. v. Whistler Energy II, LLC" on Justia Law

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Acting under authority delegated by the EPA, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a general permit in 2010 for the discharge of certain pollutants resulting from suction dredge mining. Petitioners filed this proceeding arguing, among other things, that only the Army Corps of Engineers had authority under the Clean Water Act to permit the discharge of materials resulting from suction dredge mining. The Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the trial court’s order upholding DEQ’s permit. Finding no reversible error, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed. View "Eastern Oregon Mining Assoc. v. DEQ" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered on whether a solar energy project proposed by a local agency, the Lake Arrowhead Community Services District (District), was exempt from, or whether the District must comply with, the zoning ordinances of the city in which the project is to be developed, the City of Hesperia (City). The District adopted a resolution that its proposed solar energy project was both (1) absolutely exempt from the City's zoning ordinances under Government Code section 53091(e) and (2) qualifiedly exempt under section 53096(a), following the requisite determination that there was no feasible alternative to the proposed location of the project. The City successfully challenged the resolution in the underlying superior court proceedings, where the court issued a judgment in favor of the City and a related writ of mandate directing that the District and its board comply with the City's zoning ordinance prior to implementing the project. The Court of Appeal affirmed: because the District's proposed project included the transmission of electrical energy, the exemption contained in section 53091(e) did not apply to the project; and because the administrative record did not contain substantial evidence to support the District's board's finding that there was no feasible alternative to the proposed location of the project, the District prejudicially abused its discretion in determining that the exemption contained in section 53096(a) applied to the project. View "City of Hesperia v. Lake Arrowead Comm. Serv. Dist." on Justia Law