Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

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An oil producer challenged an Alaska Department of Revenue advisory bulletin interpreting the oil tax code, arguing that the bulletin violated the Alaska Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and seeking a declaratory judgment that the interpretation was contrary to law. The Alaska Supreme Court determined the advisory bulletin could not be challenged under the APA because it was not a regulation, and that a declaratory judgment was not available because the tax dispute between the parties was not ripe. View "Exxon Mobil Corporation v. Alaska, Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Texas Propane Gas Association (TPGA) demonstrated standing to bring its suit against the City of Houston for a declaratory judgment that the City's ordinances regulating the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry to include imposing criminal fines for violations were preempted by state law.The City brought two jurisdictional challenges to TPGA's suit: (1) the City argued that civil courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate TPGA's preemption claim because the local regulations it challenged carried criminal penalties; and (2) the City argued that TPGA could only challenge the City's LPG regulations that have injured at least one of its members. The trial court refused to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The court of appeals remanded the case to the trial court for TPGA to amend its pleadings, agreeing that TPGA could not challenge the City's regulations en masse. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) TPGA's claim was not a criminal law matter that must be raised in defense to prosecution; and (2) the City's argument, while framed as a challenge to TPGA's standing, was in fact a merits challenge, and TPGA demonstrated standing to bring the preemption claim it pleaded. View "Texas Propane Gas Ass'n v. City of Houston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that Petitioners (collectively, BPX) were not entitled to summary judgment on the issue of whether Margaret Strickhausen impliedly ratified an unauthorized pooling agreement, holding that BPX did not establish implied ratification as a matter of law.BPX was a lessee of Strickhausen's mineral interest. The lease required BPX to obtain Strickhausen's express written consent before pooling her tract with others. Strickhausen never gave express written consent to BPX, which meant that BPX could not pool "under any circumstances." Strickhausen sued BPX for breach of contract, among other claims, after BPX filed a certificate of pooling authority for a well on her tract. BPX filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Strickhausen impliedly ratified the pooling because she accepted royalty payments calculated on a pooled basis. The trial court granted an interlocutory summary judgment for BPX on Strickhausen's wrongful pooling, commingling, and failure to account claims. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment for BPX on the issue of implied ratification was improper. View "BPX Operating Co v. Strickhausen" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Rhonda Pennington, Steven Nelson, Donald Nelson, and Charlene Bjornson appealed a judgment entered after the district court determined their oil and gas leases with Continental Resources had not expired and remained in effect. The Plaintiffs argued the district court erred in concluding the leases had not expired. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the issues the Plaintiffs raised on appeal were precluded under the law of the case doctrine and mandate rule. View "Pennington, et al. v. Continental Resources" on Justia Law

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Tesoro Great Plains Gathering & Marketing, LLC, formerly known as Great Northern Gathering & Marketing, LLC (“Great Northern”), appealed an amended judgment entered after the district court ordered a pipeline lien held by Mountain Peak Builders, LLC foreclosed, and awarded Mountain Peak attorney fees and costs. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court determined the lien was extinguished, the district court erred as a matter of law by ordering the lien foreclosed and by awarding Mountain Peak attorney fees and costs. View "Tesoro Great Plains Gathering & Marketing v. Mountain Peak Builders" on Justia Law

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The Union of Concerned Scientists sought review of a Department of Energy (DOE) rule concerning the designation of “critical electric infrastructure information,” 16 U.S.C. 824o-1(a)(3), exempted from FOIA disclosure and not to be “made available by any Federal, State, political subdivision or tribal authority pursuant to any Federal, State, political subdivision or tribal law requiring public disclosure of information or records.”The Union, a national nonprofit organization consisting of scientists, engineers, analysts, and policy and communication experts who conduct “independent analyses,” argued that the rule exceeds the Department’s authority under section 215A of the Federal Power Act, is arbitrary and capricious, and was promulgated in violation of the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. The D.C. Circuit dismissed the petition for lack of Article III standing. There is no indication that DOE’s rule would deprive the Union or its members of information they would receive if DOE were to apply a 2016 Rule promulgated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. View "Union of Concerned Scientists v. United States Department of Energy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated two orders of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) denying a competitive bidding waiver to Hawai'i Electric Light Company, Inc. (HELCO) and denying Hu Honua's request for reconsideration of the first order, holding that both orders were the result of a misreading of the holding in Matter of Hawai'i Electric Light Co., 445 P.3d 673 (Haw. 2019) (HELCO I).In 2017, the PUC granted HELCO a waiver from competitive bidding for a proposed power purchase agreement HELCO wanted to enter into with Hu Honua (the amended PPA). The 2017 waiver was issued alongside the PUC's approval of the amended PPA. The Supreme Court vacated the decision and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the PUC issued Order No. 37205 denying HELCO's request for a waiver under the belief that HELCO I nullified the 2017 waiver. In order No. 37306, the PUC denied Hu Honua's request for reconsideration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that HELCO I did not vacate the 2017 waiver and, by extension, did not require the PUC to revisit the threshold waiver issue. View "In re Hawai'i Electric Light Co." on Justia Law

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The Plaintiffs (“Blasi”) sued the Defendants (“Bruin”) in five separate cases in federal district court alleging Bruin underpaid royalties due under the terms of various oil and gas leases. Blasi accepted the royalties in cash rather than in kind. Blasi claimed the royalty was to be paid “free of costs” and asserted Bruin improperly deducted “various costs such as gathering or moving the oil and other costs” from the marketable price of the oil. The United States District Court for the District of North Dakota certified a question related to the interpretation of the lease: “Whether the instant oil royalty provision is interpreted to mean the royalty is based on the value of the oil ‘at the well.’” Blasi filed a motion requesting that the North Dakota Supreme Court decline to answer the question. The Supreme Court exercised its discretionary authority to answer the certified question, concluding that as a matter of law, that the royalty provision in this case established a valuation point that was at the well. View "Blasi, et al. v. Bruin E&P Partners, et al." on Justia Law

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In this eminent domain dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the first order of the district court allowing EME Wyoming, LLC access to approximately 52,000 acres of land located primarily in Goshen County and affirmed the second order permanently barring EME from using survey information it collected to file permits to drill (APD) with the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC), holding that the district court erred in part.EME sought access to land owned by four limited liability companies (collectively, the BRW Group) for the purpose of gathering data to evaluate the property's suitability for condemnation. The BRW Group denied EME's request, believing that EME sought access to the lands solely to collect data with which to file APDs, which is not a proper purpose under the Wyoming Eminent Domain Act. The district court allowed EME to access the property to survey and gather data but restricted it from using the survey information to file APDs. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) EME should not have been permitted access to the property because it did not make the required showing for access to the BRW Group's property; and (2) therefore, the data EME collected to file APDs was not lawfully in EME's possession, and EME could not use the data for any purpose. View "BRW East, LLC v. EME Wyoming, LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying a preliminary injunction barring construction of Segment 1 of a planned five-segment electric transmission power corridor in Maine, holding that Plaintiffs failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits.The planned transmission power corridor was part of a larger project that would run from Quebec, Canada to Massachusetts. After its performance of an environmental assessment, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit authorizing Central Maine Power, a private company, to take three actions in Segment 1. Plaintiffs, environmental organizations, sought preliminary injunctive relief. The district court rejected Plaintiffs' challenges and denied relief. Plaintiffs then brought this interlocutory appeal and filed an emergency motion for injunction pending appeal. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs' challenges did not demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits. View "Sierra Club v. United States Department of Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law