Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

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In this taxation dispute between the County of Maui and Appellees, which leased land on the island of Maui to operate their wind farms, the Supreme Court upheld the Tax Appeals Court's (TAC) final judgment in favor of Appellees, holding that the TAC properly held that the County exceeded its constitutional authority by amending Maui County Code 3.48.005 to expand its definition of "real property" to include "personal property." The County included the value of Appellees' wind turbine in their real property tax assessments and redefined the term "real property" within section 3.48.005 of the MCC to include wind turbines for that purpose. The TAC concluded that the County exceeded its authority under Haw. Const. art. VIII, 3 because the delegates to the 1978 Constitutional Convention did not intend to grant counties the power to redefine "real property." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the County exceeded its constitutional power when it amended MCC 6.48.005 to redefine "real property." View "In re Tax Appeal of Kaheawa Wind Power, LLC v. County of Maui" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approving only one out of two applications filed by Exaro Energy III, LLC seeking the approval of adjacent drilling and spacing units (DSUs) in the Jonah Field, holding that the Commission's denial of Exaro's other application was arbitrary and capricious. At a contested case hearing the parties agreed that the evidence presented would apply to both applications. At the hearing's conclusion, the Commission found as to both applications that Exam had met its burden of proof and provided evidence satisfying the statutory requirements for the establishment of a DSU. However, the Commission approved one application and denied the other. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) substantial evidence supported the Commission's finding that Exaro's evidence satisfied the statutory requirements for establishment of a DSU in both applications; and (2) the Commission's decision to grant only one of the applications was arbitrary and capricious. View "Exaro Energy III, LLC v. Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of discretionary review of five awards made to Walmart under the Settlement Agreement arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The court held that there was no showing of a misapplication or contradiction of the Settlement Agreement requiring the district court's review. In this case, the Claims Administrator conducted a searching review of the financial statements Walmart provided from both its old and new accounting system, and the PWC accountants brought specific clarification questions to Walmart regarding the changes. Furthermore, Walmart responded to the satisfaction of the Claims Administrator. The court rejected BP's claim that there was a split Appeal Panels on how to address changes in accounting systems like the one at issue here. The court saw BP's claim as one challenging the Appeal Panels' discretionary decision that raises the correctness of a discretionary administrative decision on the facts of a single claimant's case, and held that the district court's denial of a request for discretionary review of such a decision was not an abuse of discretion. View "BP Exploration & Production, Inc. v. Claimant ID 100354107" on Justia Law

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In this case involving a dispute between Portland Pipe Line Corporation (PPLC) and the City of South Portland (the City) the First Circuit certified three questions to the Maine Law Court because this clash raised important questions of state law preemption doctrine and statutory interpretation that are unresolved and may prove dispositive. The parties to this dispute were PPLC, a Maine corporation engaged in the international transportation of oil, and the City, which enacted a municipal zoning ordinance prohibiting the bulk loading of crude oil onto vessels in the City's harbor. The ordinance prevented PPLC from using its infrastructure to transport oil from Montreal to South Portland via underground pipelines. PPLC appealed the district court's dismissal of its claims, arguing that the ordinance was preempted by Maine's Coastal Conveyance Act and was in conflict with federal constitutional law. The First Circuit declined to address the federal questions, concluding that the case lacked controlling precedent and presented difficult legal issues that warranted certification to the Law Court. View "Portland Pipe Line Corp. v. City of South Portland" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the Board's award of a permit for construction of a compressor station on behalf of ACP in the historic community of Union Hill. The compression station is one of three stations planned to support the transmission of natural gas through ACP's 600-mile pipeline. The Fourth Circuit held that the Board erred in failing to consider electric turbines as zero-emission alternatives to gas-fired turbines in the compressor station. The court also held that the Board erred in failing to assess the compressor station's potential for disproportionate health impacts on the predominantly African-American community of Union Hill, and in failing to independently evaluate the suitability of that site. Accordingly, the court vacated the permit and remanded for the Board to make findings with regard to conflicting evidence in the record, the particular studies it relied on, and the corresponding local character and degree of injury from particulate matter and toxic substances threatened by construction and operation of the compressor station. View "Friends of Buckingham v. State Air Pollution Control Board" on Justia Law

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At issue in this oil and gas royalty case were orders to pay issued by the Department of the Interior to W&T in order to resolve volumetric gas delivery imbalances. The district court granted partial summary judgment on each of the parties' motions. The Fifth Circuit held that the Department of the Interior permissibly required resolution of delivery imbalances via cash payment, but that it improperly promulgated a substantive rule without subjecting it to notice and comment. The court also held that the Department of the Interior should have credited all W&T’s deliveries under the doctrine of equitable recoupment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's partial grant of summary judgment in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "W & T Offshore, Inc. v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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In this case examining whether the former version of the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) applies to certain counterclaims alleged in a dispute over an oil and gas lease the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing all the counterclaims in this case, holding that the court of appeals properly dismissed one counterclaim but erred in dismissing the remaining counterclaims. At issue was whether each counterclaim was "based on, relates to, or is in response to" the "exercise of the right of free speech" or the "exercise of the right to petition," as defined by the governing statutory text. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 27.003(a). The Supreme Court held (1) certain communications to third parties about an oil and gas lease allegedly involving the exercise of free speech, on which some of the counterclaims were based, were not covered by the TCPA because they did not relate to a matter of public concern under the TCPA, and therefore, the court of appeals erred in dismissing these counterclaims; and (2) the court of appeals correctly disposed of the "right to petition" counterclaim. View "Creative Oil & Gas, LLC v. Lona Hills Ranch, LLC" on Justia Law

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FES distributes electricity, buying it from its fossil-fuel and nuclear electricity-generating subsidiaries. FES and a subsidiary filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court enjoined the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) from interfering with its plan to reject certain electricity-purchase contracts that FERC had previously approved under the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. 791a or the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act, 16 U.S.C. 2601, applying the ordinary business-judgment rule and finding that the contracts were financially burdensome to FES. The counterparties were rendered unsecured creditors to the bankruptcy estate. The Sixth Circuit agreed that the bankruptcy court has jurisdiction to decide whether FES may reject the contracts, but held that the injunction was overly broad (beyond its jurisdiction) and that its standard for deciding rejection was too limited. The public necessity of available and functional bankruptcy relief is generally superior to the necessity of FERC’s having complete or exclusive authority to regulate energy contracts and markets. The bankruptcy court exceeded its authority by enjoining FERC from “initiating or continuing any proceeding” or “interfer[ing] with [its] exclusive jurisdiction,” given that it did not have exclusive jurisdiction. On remand, the bankruptcy court must reconsider and decide the impact of the rejection of these contracts on the public interest—including the consequential impact on consumers and any tangential contract provisions concerning such things as decommissioning, environmental management, and future pension obligations—to ensure that the “equities balance in favor of rejecting the contracts.” View "In re: FirstEnergy Solutions Corp." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying the Board's petition to enforce five requests issued by the Board in subpoenas following an explosion and chemical release at an ExxonMobile refinery. The panel held that, although the district court did an admirable job, it erred in finding these five requests unenforceable. In this case, the five subpoena requests relating to the alkylation unit and the modified hydrofluoric acid stored there were relevant to the February 2015 explosion and accidental release of modified hydrofluoric acid. The panel held that a review of the specific disputed requests confirmed that each sought material that might cast light on the Board's investigation into the February 2015 release. View "United States v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court's order granting summary judgment to Arnold Bakie and determining that Mines Management, Inc.'s (MMI) use of an adit and underground tunnel traversing Defendants' unpatented mining claims constituted trespass, holding that the district court erred in determining that Bakie possessed valid unpatented mining claims, thus entitling him to summary judgment, and in determining that MMI's use of the adit and underground tunnel constituted a trespass. MMI filed a complaint against Bakie and other defendants seeking a declaratory judgment that the mining claims owned by Defendants were invalid. Defendants countersued, alleging that MMI's use of the adit and underground tunnel constituted a trespass. The district court granted summary judgment to Bakie, determining that Bakie's claims were valid unpatented mining claims and that MMI was liable for trespass. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court erred in granting summary judgment for Bakie because there was no evidence of valuable mineral deposits on the claims at issue; and (2) for the same reasons, the district court erred in determining that MMI committed trespass by using the adit and underground tunnel. View "Mines Management, Inc. v. Fus" on Justia Law