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Greggory Tank appealed an amended judgment quieting title to royalty interests in property located in McKenzie County, North Dakota in favor of several of the defendants. In June 2014, Tank sued numerous defendants seeking to quiet title to royalty interests in proceeds from the production from an oil and gas well. Most of the defendants did not appear or settled with Tank. The remaining defendants who were the appellees in this appeal contested the quiet title action. The royalty interests at issue were subject to several possible conveyances. Tank claims ownership of a 16 percent royalty interest based on an unbroken chain of title utilizing filed county records dating back to the federal fee patent. Included within that chain of title was a 1931 purchase of the property by McKenzie County under a tax foreclosure sale. The County subsequently sold and transferred the property in 1945. The defendants claimed various percentages of royalty interests under a recorded 1938 assignment of an 11 percent royalty to oil and gas produced on the property. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the district court's amended judgment quieting title to the royalty interests in favor of the defendants and directed the entry of judgment quieting title in favor of Tank. A county's tax deed gives it title or color of title to the whole estate in the land including the royalty interests. A tax deed, valid upon its face, creates a presumptive title to the entire estate in the land which continues until it has been overcome by the affirmative action in court, by suit or counterclaim on the part of a person who has a sufficient interest to challenge the title. Royalty interests cannot be "possessed" for purposes of the statute of limitations or adverse possession. The Court remanded this case to the district court for determination of whether Tank was barred from the recovery of royalty payments previously made to the defendants and, if not barred, the amount of the recovery. View "Siana Oil & Gas Co., LLC v. Dublin Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action claiming that two provisions of the Florida Renewable Technologies and Energy Efficiency Act, which authorized the Nuclear Cost Recovery System (NCRS), were invalid under the Dormant Commerce Clause (DCC). Plaintiffs also claimed that the two provisions of the Act were preempted by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, and the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the DCC claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), because plaintiffs' interests as Florida electric utility customers were well beyond the zone the DCC was meant to protect. The court held that the Atomic Energy Act did not preempt the NCRS, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiffs leave to amend. View "Newton v. Duke Energy Florida, LLC" on Justia Law

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Canyon Fuel Company operated the Sufco Mine, a coal mine located in Sevier County, Utah. Under federal law, the mine had to have two escapeways in the event of an emergency: a primary and an alternate. An inspector for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) cited Canyon Fuel for a violation of this mine safety requirement. Canyon Fuel unsuccessfully contested the citation before the federal agency and appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the Secretary of Labor’s interpretation of the regulation as requiring consideration of both above- and below-ground factors, but vacated the citation because it was not supported by substantial evidence. View "Canyon Fuel Company v. Secretary of Labor" on Justia Law

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A majority of the Supreme Court held (1) Va. Code 56-49.01(A) allows a natural gas company to gain access to private property for the purpose of conducting surveys and other activities that are only necessary for the selection of the most advantageous route; and (2) the trial court did not misapply section 56-49.01 in this case. Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP), which was engaged in the regulatory approval process to build a natural gas pipeline, sought permission to enter Landowners’ properties to conduct preliminary surveys and other activities. Landowners withheld their consent. ACP filed the instant second amended petition for declaratory judgment seeking an order affirming ACP’s authority to enter Landowners’ properties for the purposes defined in section 56-49.01. The trial court granted ACP permission to enter the properties to conduct the necessary activities. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in its construction of section 56-49.01(A); and (2) the trial court’s application of section 56-49.01 was not improper. View "Barr v. Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Hiland Crude, LLC in this declaratory action challenging the tax classification of Hiland Crude’s crude oil gathering pipelines in Montana. Hiland Crude owns and operates crude oil gathering and transmission systems in Montana. The Department of Revenue began centrally assessing Hiland Crude’s property in 2013 and classified all of its pipeline systems within the State as class nine property. Hiland Crude filed this suit asserting that gathering pipeline systems should be taxed as class eight property, regardless of whether the property is centrally assessed, because they are “flow lines and gathering lines” under the class eight statute. The district court agreed and granted summary judgment for Hiland Crude. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Hiland Crude. View "Hiland Crude, LLC v. State, Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Wayne Land and Mineral Group, wanting to obtain natural gas by fracking reserves, sought a declaratory judgment that an interstate compact does not give the Delaware River Basin Commission authority to review Wayne’s proposal. The district court dismissed the case after determining that Wayne’s proposed activities constituted a “project” subject to the Commission’s oversight, according to the Compact's unambiguous terms. The Third Circuit vacated, concluding that the meaning of the word “project” is ambiguous. The court remanded the case for fact-finding on the intent of the Compact's drafters. The Compact defines “project” as “any work, service or activity which is separately planned, financed, or identified by the [C]ommission, or any separate facility undertaken or to be undertaken within a specified area, for the conservation, utilization, control, development or management of water resources which can be established and utilized independently or as an addition to an existing facility, and can be considered as a separate entity for purposes of evaluation” and requires approval for any project having a substantial effect on the water resources of the Basin. In 2009 the Commission imposed a moratorium on fracking. View "Wayne Land and Mineral Group LLC v. Delaware River Basin Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that the royalty interest reserved to the grantor in a 1951 deed was fixed - or set at a specific percentage of production - rather than floating - dependent on the royalty amount in the applicable oil and gas lease. Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the deed reserved a floating one-half royalty interest. The trial court declared that the deed reserved a floating one-half royalty interest. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the royalty interest was fixed. The Supreme Court reversed in light of the language and structure of the reservation at issue, holding that the deed unambiguously reserved a floating one-half interest in the royalty in all oil, gas, or other minerals produced from the conveyed property. View "U.S. Shale Energy II, LLC v. Laborde Properties, L.P." on Justia Law

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A landowner brought suit against several mineral lessees for breach of the obligations of the mineral lease. The mortgagee of one of the lessees was also named as a defendant. The lower courts held all lessees and the mortgagee jointly liable for damages resulting from the failure to furnish a recordable act evidencing the expiration of the lease (i.e., failure to release the lease). The Louisiana Supreme Court granted consolidated writ applications to determine: (1) whether the mortgagee was properly held jointly liable as an “owner” of the lease under La. Mineral Code art. 207 and a “lessee” under La. Mineral Code art. 140; (2) whether the imposition of joint liability was correct with regard to the owner of a portion of the shallow rights; (3) whether La. Mineral Code art. 140’s calculation of damages contemplated the inclusion of unpaid royalties (the amount due) in addition to double the amount of unpaid royalties (as a penalty) or whether the maximum damage award allowed is twice the amount of unpaid royalties; and (4) whether $125,000 in attorney fees for work done on appeal was excessive. The Court found: (1) the mortgagee was not an “owner” for purposes of La. Mineral Code art. 207 and was, therefore, not liable for failure to release the lease. For the same reasons, the Court found the mortgagee was not a “lessee” for purposes of La. Mineral Code art. 140 and, was, therefore, not liable for failure to pay royalties that were due. (2) The Court found Tauren is jointly liable for the damages because the failure to release the lease was an indivisible obligation under the particular facts of this case. (3) The Court held La. Mineral Code art. 140 authorized as damages a maximum of double the amount of unpaid royalties. (4) Last, the Court amended the award of attorney fees. View "Gloria's Ranch, LLC. v. Tauren Exploration, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal centered on the trial court's judgment after a bench trial that denied the Appellant's petition to cancel Appellee's oil and gas leases, to quiet title in favor of the Appellant's "top leases," and to hold Appellee liable for slander of title. The Oklahoma Supreme Court retained the appeal to address several issues of first impression. Through this opinion, the Court declined to adopt the definition of "capability" propounded by the Appellant and affirmed the district court's finding that Appellee's wells were capable of production in paying quantities. The Court affirmed the district court's judgment insofar as it quieted title in Appellee's favor as to leasehold interests located inside those wells' spacing units. The Court reversed the district court's judgment insofar as it quieted title in Appellee's favor as to leasehold interests in lands falling outside those wells' spacing units, because the statutory Pugh clause found in 52 O.S. 87.1(b) required it. Furthermore, the Court found that the title of the bill enacting the statutory Pugh clause did not violate Article V, Section 57 of the Oklahoma Constitution and that the effect of the statutory Pugh clause upon Appellee's leasehold interests did not result in an unconstitutional taking in violation of Article II, Section 23 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Lastly, the Court reversed the district court's judgment insofar as it quieted title in Appellee's favor as to leases upon which no well had ever been drilled. View "Hall v. Galmor" on Justia Law

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Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Order 1000 encourages the development of “interregional” electricity transmission projects, calling for regional providers to jointly evaluate interregional projects. Poviders must adopt cost-allocation methodologies for dividing up the costs of a joint project to assure that the relative costs borne by a particular transmission provider be commensurate with the relative benefits gained by the provider. MISO, which operates transmission facilities on behalf of providers across 15 midwestern states, proposed to conduct cost allocation for interregional projects using a “cost-avoidance” method. The share of costs allocated to MISO under that method corresponds to the benefits to MISO of its regional projects that would be displaced by the interregional project. In identifying which regional projects should be regarded as displaced, MISO proposed to exclude any project that had already been approved by the MISO board. The Commission rejected MISO’s cost-allocation approach, reasoning that excluding approved regional projects would fail to account for the full potential benefits of an interregional project. The D.C. Circuit denied a petition for review. Although MISO had standing and its claims were ripe, one claim was not properly presented to the agency in a request for rehearing. On the merits of the other claims, the court held that the Commission adequately responded to concerns about the possible effects of including approved regional projects in the cost-allocation calculation. View "Ameren Services Co. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law