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The 1977 deed at issue in this case was ambiguous and of such doubtful meaning that reasonable minds disagreed as to the deed’s intent, and therefore, the circuit court erred in finding the deed was clear and in finding that the grantors did not convey one-half interest in oil and gas beneath a tract of land in Marshall County to the grantee. In 2013, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendants asserting that, in the 1977 deed, Plaintiffs retained ownership of the one-half undivided interest in the oil and gas and, therefore, Defendants trespassed on their oil and gas interest and engaged in conversion. Plaintiffs then amended the complaint to request a declaratory judgment interpreting the 1977 deed. The circuit court determined that the deed was clear and unambiguous and declared that Plaintiffs kept for themselves the one-half interest in the oil and gas. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in finding that the 1977 deed was unambiguous and in granting a declaratory judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. View "Gastar Exploration Inc. v. Rine" on Justia Law

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Joan Hallin, John Hallin and Susan Bradford (collectively Hallin and Bradford) appeal from a judgment in favor of Inland Oil & Gas Corporation. In 2007, Hallin and Bradford each leased to Inland mineral interests they owned in 160 acres of land in Mountrail County. The leases provided Hallin and Bradford leased to Inland "all that certain tract of land situated in Mountrail County." Hallin and Bradford, along with members of their extended family, owned a fraction of the minerals in the entire 160 acres. On the basis of irregularities in the chain of title, it was unclear whether Hallin and Bradford collectively owned sixty net mineral acres or eighty net mineral acres when the parties executed the leases. Hallin and Bradford believed they owned sixty net mineral acres and their relatives owned sixty acres. When Hallin and Bradford executed the leases, they also received payment drafts for a rental bonus showing they each leased thirty acres to Inland. The leases provide royalty compensation based upon the number of net mineral acres. The North Dakota Supreme Court decided Hallin and Bradford collectively owned eighty net mineral acres and their relatives owned forty net mineral acres. Inland and Hallin and Bradford disagreed whether the leases covered all of Hallin and Bradford's mineral interests. Hallin and Bradford sued Inland, arguing they leased sixty acres and the remaining twenty acres were not leased. Inland argued Hallin and Bradford leased eighty acres because the leases cover all of their mineral interests. The district court granted summary judgment to Inland, concluding the leases were unambiguous and that "as a matter of law, the Hallins and Bradford leased to Inland whatever interest they had in the subject property at the time the leases were executed." Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hallin v. Inland Oil & Gas Corporation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff David Speed filed a petition asserting a putative class action against defendant JMA Energy Company, LLC. He alleged that JMA had willfully violated an Oklahoma statute that required payment of interest on delayed payment of revenue from oil and gas production. He further asserted that JMA fraudulently concealed from mineral-interest owners that it owed interest due under the statute, intending to pay only those who requested interest. JMA removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, asserting that the district court had jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA - 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)). After conducting jurisdictional discovery, Speed filed an amended motion to remand the case to state court. The district court granted this motion, relying on an exception to CAFA that permitted a district court to decline to exercise jurisdiction over a class action meeting certain citizenship prerequisites “in the interests of justice and looking at the totality of the circumstances,” based on its consideration of six enumerated factors. On appeal JMA challenged the district court’s remand order. Because the district court properly considered the statutory factors and did not abuse its discretion by remanding to state court, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Speed v. JMA Energy Company" on Justia Law

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The Illinois Commerce Commission granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Rock Island for construction of a high voltage electric transmission line between O’Brien County, Iowa, and a converter station adjacent to Commonwealth Edison Company’s Grundy County, Illinois substation. Rock Island is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wind Line, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Clean Line, which is owned in part by Grid America, a subsidiary of National Grid, which owns and operates more than 8600 miles of high-voltage transmission facilities. Rock Island has never constructed a high voltage transmission line and does not yet own, control, operate, or manage any plants, equipment, or property used or to be used in the transmission of electricity or for any other purpose related to utilities; it has an option to purchase real property in Grundy County. The appellate court reversed, holding that the Commission had no authority under the Public Utilities Act, 220 ILCS 5/1-101, to consider Rock Island’s application because the company did not qualify as a public utility under Illinois law. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Whatever Rock Island’s motives for seeking a certificate of public necessity and convenience, it does not qualify as a public utility; eligibility for a certificate of public convenience and necessity unambiguously requires present ownership, management, or control of defined utility property or equipment. View "Illinois Landowners Alliance, NFP v. Illinois Commerce Commission" on Justia Law

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Jeffrey Ware, Ph.D., was a University of Pennsylvania neuroscientist, studying the effects of radiation on biological organisms with the goal of better understanding how radiation affects astronauts while in orbit. Ware used cesium-137 irradiators to track the effects of low-level radiation on mice and rats. In 2010, Ware suffered a rare form of brain cancer, gliosarcoma. His widow, Boyer, claims gliosarcoma is associated with radiation exposure but produced no expert reports and that Ware’s cancer specifically resulted from radiation exposure that UPenn failed to properly monitor, protect against or warn of. Ware underwent chemotherapy and radiation at the University’s hospital. Boyer alleges that Ware was not given appropriate information about these treatments; that, given the advanced stage of his disease, they provided little benefit; and that a UPenn doctor enrolled Ware in a research study to investigate the effects of chemotherapy and radiation on brain cancer patients without his knowing consent. The Third Circuit affirmed the application of the Price-Anderson Act, 42 U.S.C. 2011, and its remedy-limiting provisions to Boyer's suit. The Act gives federal courts jurisdiction to resolve a broad set of claims involving liability for physical harm arising from nuclear radiation. Boyer’s case is within the Act’s reach. View "Estate of Ware v. Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the Board of Equalization’s decision affirming the ruling of the Wyoming Department of Revenue against PacifiCorp, Inc., which sought a ruling that its purchases of certain chemicals used in the process of generating electricity in coal-fired electrical generation facilities in Wyoming qualified for either the manufacturers’ sales tax exemption or the wholesalers’ sales tax exemption. The court held (1) The Board erred when it concluded that PacifiCorp is not a manufacturer under Wyo. Stat. Ann. 39-15-105(a)(iii)A); (2) the Board did not err when it held that certain chemicals necessary to treat water and sulfur dioxide emissions during the coal combustion processes that generate electricity are not “used directly” to generate electricity and are therefore not exempt from sales tax under section 39-15-105(a)(iii)(A); and (3) the Board did not err when it held that PacifiCorp’s purchases of certain chemicals and catalysts do not constitute wholesale purchases exempt from taxation under section 39-15-105(a)(iii)(F). View "PacifiCorp, Inc. v. Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs assert that they developed cancer after being exposed to excessive radiation emissions from the Nuclear Material and Equipment Company’s Apollo, Pennsylvania facility. The district court held that their common-law claims against were preempted by the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act and rejected their Price-Anderson “public liability” claims on summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although the Act preempted common-law negligence claims, the public liability claims require Plaintiffs to prove versions of the traditional negligence elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. With respect to duty, the court noted the restrictions on access to the facility; Plaintiffs did not establish the existence of excessive radiation outside the restricted area. The facility’s license did not establish a tort duty. Even with state-of-the-art data, it is impossible to determine with certainty that radiation is the cause of a given incidence of cancer. Plaintiffs failed to offer evidence from which a jury could find that each plaintiff was exposed to radiation from Defendants’ uranium effluent sufficiently frequently, regularly, and proximately to substantially cause their illnesses. View "McMunn v. Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose from competing claims to a portion of the Yuba Goldfields, a 10,000-acre valley on both sides of the Yuba River near Marysville. At issue was whether an arbitration award resolving a dispute between plaintiff Cal Sierra Development, Inc. (Cal Sierra), and Western Aggregates, Inc., served as res judicata to bar Cal Sierra’s lawsuit against Western Aggregates’ licensee George Reed, Inc., and the licensee’s parent Basic Resources, Inc. The Court of Appeal concluded yes. View "Cal Sierra Development v. George Reed, Inc." on Justia Law

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Sierra Club challenged the Commission's decision approving the construction and operation of three new interstate natural-gas pipelines in the southeastern United States. Determining that it has jurisdiction to entertain Sierra Club's claims, the DC Circuit held that the Commission's environmental impact statement did not contain enough information on the greenhouse-gas emissions that will result from burning the gas that the pipelines will carry. However, the Commission acted properly in all other respects. Accordingly, the court granted Sierra Club's petition for review and remanded for preparation of a conforming environmental impact statement. View "Sierra Club v. FERC" on Justia Law

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In an amendment to the Clean Air Act (CAA), Congress directed the EPA to operate a Renewable Fuel Standards Program (the RFS Program) to increase oil refineries’ use of renewable fuels. But for small refineries that would suffer a “disproportionate economic hardship” in complying with the RFS Program, the statute required the EPA to grant exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Petitioner Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company owned and operated two refineries in Wyoming: one in Sinclair, and another in Casper. Both fell within the RFS Program’s definition of “small refinery” and were exempt from the RFS requirements until 2011. Those exemptions were extended until 2013 after the Department of Energy found Sinclair’s Wyoming refineries to be among the 13 of 59 small refineries that would continue to face “disproportionate economic hardship” if required to comply with the RFS Program. Sinclair then petitioned the EPA to extend their small-refinery exemptions. The EPA denied Sinclair’s petitions in two separate decisions, finding that both refineries appeared to be profitable enough to pay the cost of the RFS Program. Sinclair filed a timely petition for review with the Tenth Circuit court, which concluded the EPA exceeded its statutory authority under the CAA in interpreting the hardship exemption to require a threat to a refinery’s survival as an ongoing operation. Because the Court found the EPA exceeded its statutory authority, it vacated the EPA’s decisions and remanded to the EPA for further proceedings. View "Sinclair Wyoming Refining v. EPA" on Justia Law