Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries
Jones v. Solgen Construction
In the case of Maryann Jones v. Solgen Construction, LLC and GoodLeap, LLC, the Court of Appeal of the State of California Fifth Appellate District affirmed the trial court's decision not to compel arbitration. The case concerned a business relationship involving the installation of home solar panels. The appellants, Solgen Construction and GoodLeap, had appealed the trial court's denial of their separate motions to compel arbitration, arguing that the court had erred in several ways, including by concluding that no valid agreement to arbitrate existed.Jones, the respondent, had filed a lawsuit alleging fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, negligence, and violations of various consumer protection laws. She contended that she had been misled into believing she was signing up for a free government program to lower her energy costs, not entering into a 25-year loan agreement for solar panels. The appellants argued that Jones had signed contracts containing arbitration clauses, but the court found that the appellants had failed to meet their burden of demonstrating the existence of a valid arbitration agreement. The court also held that the contract was unenforceable due to being unconscionable.The appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision, rejecting the appellants' arguments that an evidentiary hearing should have been held and that the court had erred in its interpretation of the evidence and the law. It found that the trial court had not abused its discretion and that its finding that the appellants failed to meet their burden of proof was not erroneous as a matter of law. View "Jones v. Solgen Construction" on Justia Law
Anne Arundel County v. BP P.L.C.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to remand two lawsuits back to Maryland state court. The lawsuits were brought by the City of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County against more than 20 energy companies, including BP P.L.C. The local governments accused the companies of misrepresenting and concealing information about the environmental impact of their fossil fuel products in violation of Maryland's Consumer Protection Act and various state tort laws. The companies tried to remove the cases to federal court, arguing that because they had acted under federal authority in their operations, the court had federal question jurisdiction. However, the appeals court found that the company's activities related to fossil fuel production were not relevant to the claims brought by the local governments, which were based on alleged concealment or misrepresentation of information about fossil fuel products. The court also rejected the companies' argument that the First Amendment question related to their right to free speech provided a basis for federal jurisdiction, as this question was a defense rather than a necessary element of the plaintiffs' state-law claims. View "Anne Arundel County v. BP P.L.C." on Justia Law
Toolpushers Supply Co. v. Mississippi Department of Revenue
The case involves Toolpushers Supply Co., a Wyoming-based company with a retail location in Mississippi that sells supplies and items used in the oil-and-gas industry. In 2016, the Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) audited Toolpushers’ sales and concluded that the company owed an additional $124,728 based on the failure to remit sales tax on certain sales. Toolpushers considered these sales wholesale and thus tax-exempt, but the MDOR determined they were not qualified as wholesale. Toolpushers appealed to the MDOR’s Board of Review, which affirmed the decision. The company then appealed to the Mississippi Board of Tax Appeals, which also affirmed. Toolpushers continued to appeal to the Hinds County Chancery Court, First Judicial District, and both Toolpushers and the MDOR sought summary judgment. The chancellor denied Toolpushers’ motion and granted the MDOR’s. Toolpushers then appealed to the Supreme Court of Mississippi.The Supreme Court of Mississippi stated that the chancery court correctly applied the de novo standard of review. The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the Court of Appeals and the chancery court, which in turn affirmed the MDOR’s decision. The Supreme Court agreed with the chancery court that Toolpushers could not establish its claim that the sales were wholesale. The court emphasized that the amended Mississippi Code Section 27-77-7(5) made it clear that the chancery court should give no deference to the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals, the Board of Review, or the Department of Revenue when trying the case de novo and conducting a full evidentiary judicial hearing on all factual and legal issues raised by the taxpayer. The court declared that the Court of Appeals' decision to discuss and apply caselaw addressing the pre-2015 version of Section 27-65-77, seemingly giving deference to the MDOR’s tax decision, was an error but was not reversible. View "Toolpushers Supply Co. v. Mississippi Department of Revenue" on Justia Law
Garaas v. Petro-Hunt
In this case, Jonathan Garaas and David Garaas, serving as co-trustees of multiple family trusts, appealed a dismissal of their complaint against Petro-Hunt, L.L.C., an oil company operating on land in which the trusts own mineral interests. The trusts claimed that Petro-Hunt had decreased their royalty interest without proper basis and sought both a declaratory judgment affirming their higher royalty interest and damages for underpayment. The district court dismissed the complaint without prejudice, stating that the trusts had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies before the North Dakota Industrial Commission.The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision, stating that the trusts needed to exhaust their administrative remedies before bringing their claims to the court. The court reasoned that the issues raised by the trusts involved factual matters related to the correlative rights of landowners within the drilling unit, which fall within the jurisdiction of the Industrial Commission. The court held that the commission should first consider these issues, make findings of fact, and develop a complete record before the case proceeds to the district court. It further noted that, after exhausting their administrative remedies, the trusts could then bring an appropriate action for declaratory relief or damages in district court. View "Garaas v. Petro-Hunt" on Justia Law
KEM Resources, LP v. Ryvamat, Inc.
The case involves KEM Resources, LP and Ryvamat, Inc., who both own a fifty percent interest in the oil, gas, and mineral rights of a property located in Wyoming County. Ryvamat entered into a gas lease covering the entirety of the property’s oil and gas rights, including the half owned by KEM, receiving a substantial monetary payment. KEM's predecessors in interest filed a claim for an accounting, requesting Ryvamat account for the portion of the lease payment it received attributable to KEM’s fifty percent interest. Ryvamat argued that KEM’s action was barred by the statute of limitations. The Superior Court disagreed and found that the applicable statute of limitations for KEM’s accounting claim is six years, and the original complaint was timely filed. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania agreed with the Superior Court, affirming its holding. The court ruled that KEM's accounting claim is properly considered a statutory claim for an accounting between co-tenants under Section 101. The court further found that the statute of limitations for such a claim is six years. Therefore, KEM filed its accounting claim within the statute of limitations for a claim under Section 101. View "KEM Resources, LP v. Ryvamat, Inc." on Justia Law
Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. v MUFG Union Bank, N.A.
In 2016, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), offered a bond swap whereby its noteholders could exchange unsecured notes due in 2017 for new, secured notes due in 2020. PDVSA defaulted in 2019, and the National Assembly of Venezuela passed a resolution declaring the bond swap a "national public contract" requiring its approval under Article 150 of the Venezuelan Constitution. PDVSA, along with its subsidiaries PDVSA Petróleo S.A. and PDV Holding, Inc., initiated a lawsuit seeking a judgment declaring the 2020 Notes and their governing documents "invalid, illegal, null, and void ab initio, and thus unenforceable." The case was taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which certified three questions to the New York Court of Appeals.The New York Court of Appeals, in answering the first question, ruled that Venezuelan law governs the validity of the notes under Uniform Commercial Code § 8-110 (a) (1), which encompasses plaintiffs' arguments concerning whether the issuance of the notes was duly authorized by the Venezuelan National Assembly under the Venezuelan Constitution. However, New York law governs the transaction in all other respects, including the consequences if a security was "issued with a defect going to its validity." Given the court's answer to the first certified question, it did not answer the remaining questions. View "Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. v MUFG Union Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Public Citizen, Inc. v. FERC
In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was asked to review a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regarding the regulatory jurisdiction over a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Port St. Joe, Florida. The facility was being planned by Nopetro LNG, LLC, which sought a ruling from the FERC that the facility fell outside of its regulatory jurisdiction under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act. FERC agreed, issuing a declaratory order to this effect, which it upheld on rehearing. Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, sought review of the FERC's decision.However, before the appeal was heard, the FERC informed the court that Nopetro had abandoned its plans to build the facility due to market conditions. In light of this, the court found that the case was moot and dismissed Public Citizen's petition for review. The court also vacated the FERC's orders, stating that since the appeal was moot, it would exercise its equitable authority to vacate the orders at issue. The court noted that no party argued against vacatur and it would further the public interest by precluding any potential reliance on the challenged orders the court lacked authority to review. View "Public Citizen, Inc. v. FERC" on Justia Law
GREAT NORTHERN PROPERTIES, L.P. v. US
The plaintiff, Great Northern Properties, L.P. ("GNP"), filed a lawsuit against the United States, alleging a Fifth Amendment taking of its coal leases on the Otter Creek property in Montana. GNP claimed that the federal government, through the Montana state regulatory authority, denied the necessary permits for coal mining. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the Court of Federal Claims, which dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that GNP could not establish that Montana's actions were coerced by the federal government or that Montana acted as an agent of the federal government. The court also noted that the federal government did not dictate the outcome in individual permitting cases and that state law governed the permitting process. Therefore, the federal government was not responsible for the permit denial, as Montana was not coerced to enact its own regulatory program following the passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. Furthermore, the court rejected GNP's claim that the existence of federal standards created an agency relationship between the federal government and Montana. View "GREAT NORTHERN PROPERTIES, L.P. v. US " on Justia Law
In The Matter of the Crider Family Share Trust v. Sheffield
The Supreme Court of Mississippi was asked to interpret Mississippi's Principal and Income Act of 2013 in a case involving the distribution of funds from a trust. The Crider Family Share Trust named Juliette Crider as the income beneficiary and Nathan Ricklin and Megan Woolwine as remainder beneficiaries. The Trustee, Haidee Oppie Sheffield, distributed a significant amount from Muskegon Energy Co. to the income beneficiary. Ricklin and Woolwine contended that this distribution was a breach of fiduciary duty, as they believed the funds should have been allocated to them as remainder beneficiaries. They argued that the distribution constituted a partial liquidation of the energy company's assets, and pursuant to the Principal and Income Act, the funds should have been allocated to the principal (the remainder beneficiaries) rather than the income beneficiary.The Jackson County Chancery Court ruled in favor of Sheffield. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed the lower court's decision. The Supreme Court held that the determination of whether a distribution is in partial or full liquidation, as per Section 91-7-401(e) of the Principal and Income Act, must be made on a post-tax basis. The court found that after reducing for income taxes paid by the Trust, the distributions from Muskegon Energy Co. fell below the 20 percent threshold that would trigger a partial liquidation. Therefore, the court concluded that the distributions were not in partial liquidation and Sheffield, the Trustee, did not breach any duty owed to Ricklin and Woolwine, the remainder beneficiaries. View "In The Matter of the Crider Family Share Trust v. Sheffield" on Justia Law
BASE v. DEVON ENERGY PRODUCTION
The dispute revolves around which of two oil and gas leases controls the royalty payments for nine wells collectively called the Bernhardt Wells. The Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma affirmed the trial court's summary judgment in favor of defendant, Devon Energy Production Company, L.P. The plaintiffs, trustees of The Eunice S. Justice Amended, Revised, and Restated 1990 Revocable Trust Agreement, argued that a 1978 Lease entitles them to a 3/16 royalty, while Devon maintained that a 1973 Lease, entitling the Trust to a 1/8 royalty, controls. The court found that the dispute over which lease controls is best characterized as a quiet title claim, subject to a 15-year statute of limitations, which began when the injury occurred in 1978. Thus, the Trust's quiet title claim, filed more than 15 years later, was time-barred. The court also held that the trial court did not err in denying the Trust's motion to compel the production of various title opinions in Devon's possession. View "BASE v. DEVON ENERGY PRODUCTION" on Justia Law