Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

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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

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The issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review in this case centered on whether an award of attorney fees and other litigation costs to defendant landowners in an expropriation proceeding could be upheld under current law. The underlying matter arose from the construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. As part of the project, Bayou Bridge Pipeline, LLC (“BBP”), sought to acquire servitudes on the property of various landowners. The specific piece of property at the center of this litigation is approximately 38 acres of land (“the property”). Prior to reaching servitude agreements with all individuals with an ownership interest in this particular parcel of land, BBP began pipeline construction. Peter Aaslestad, one of the property owners, filed suit against BBP in order to enjoin BBP from further construction. BBP later stipulated that it would remain off the property as of September 10, 2018. However, the pipeline construction was more than 90% complete at that time. Meanwhile, in late July 2018, after it had begun construction on the property, BBP filed expropriation litigation against hundreds of property owners with whom servitude agreements could not be reached, including Mr. Aaslestad, Katherine Aaslestad, and Theda Larson Wright (collectively referred to as “defendants”). In response, defendants filed a reconventional demand against BBP, alleging BPP trespassed on their property and violated due process by proceeding with construction of the pipeline prior to a judgment of expropriation. The matter proceeded to a trial wherein the trial court granted BBP’s petition for expropriation, finding the expropriation served a public and necessary purpose. The trial court also granted defendants’ reconventional demand, finding that BBP trespassed on defendants’ property prior to obtaining permission or legal authority. The trial court ultimately awarded each defendant $75.00 for the expropriation and another $75.00 in trespass damages. The court of appeal reversed in part: upholding the constitutionality of the expropriation process, but finding that BBP violated defendants’ due process rights and awarded $10,000.00 to each defendant for trespass, and granted attorney fees. The Supreme Court determined the award of fees was constitutional, and upheld the Court of Appeal. View "Bayou Bridge Pipeline, LLC v. 38.00 Acres, More or Less, Located in St. Martin Parish et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals holding that limitations barred a mineral estate lessee's claims for injuries to its interests in one of its nine separate leases but did not bar the lessee's claims for injuries to its interests in the other eight leases, holding that the evidence did not conclusively establish that the first legal injury occurred outside the limitations period.At issue was when, for purposes of the statute of limitations, the lessee's claim that hydrogen sulfide an operator injected back into the earth migrated beneath the surface and injured the lessee's interest in the minerals underlying nearby properties accrued. The trial court concluded that the lessee's claims occurred at least two years before the lessee first filed them and were therefore untimely. The court of appeals reversed in part. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant did not establish a right to summary judgment based on limitations. View "Regency Field Services LLC v. Swift Energy Operating LLC" on Justia Law

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In January 2020, the Energy Facility Siting Council adopted permanent rules addressing the process for amending site certificates and other procedural aspects of the council’s work. Petitioners challenged three of the council’s new rules on two grounds, contending the rules exceeded the council’s statutory authority. According to petitioners, two of the rules improperly limited party participation in contested case proceedings, and the third rule improperly authorized the expansion of site certificate boundaries without a site certificate amendment. The council disputed those arguments. The Oregon Supreme Court concurred with petitioners’ arguments and declared the three rules at issue invalid. View "Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun." on Justia Law

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Allco Renewable Energy Limited and PLH, LLC (collectively, Allco), challenged the Vermont Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) decision establishing the avoided-cost price caps and parameters of the 2020 standard-offer program. Specifically, Allco argued the PUC failed to make a required annual determination that its pricing mechanism complied with federal law, and that its 2020 standard-offer request for proposal (RFP) was invalid because the market-based pricing mechanism used in the standard-offer program violates federal law. On the PUC's record, the Vermont Supreme Court could not conclude the agency exceeded its discretion in arriving at its determinations regarding the 2020 standard-offer program. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Investigation to Review the Avoided Costs that Serve as Prices for the Standard-Offer Program in 2020 (Allco Renewable Energy Limited & PLH LLC, Appellants)" on Justia Law

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Eleanor McLaughlin acquired all oil, gas, and mineral rights underlying two parcels in Watson Township, Warren County, Pennsylvania. In 1985, she leased the oil and gas rights for each parcel to United Land Services. United Land Services in turn assigned the leases to Appellant Mitch-Well Energy, Inc. In 2008, Jack and Zureya McLaughlin sold their interest in the Warrant 3010 to Sheffield Land and Timber Company, which merged into Appellee SLT Holdings, LLC in 2012. During the initial term of the leases, Mitch-Well drilled one well on each lease parcel and produced oil in paying quantities until 1996. Mitch-Well did not drill any additional wells. After 1996, no oil was produced or royalty payments, or delay rental payments made or tendered until 2013. Nor did Mitch-Well tender any minimum payments during that period under either lease. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted review to consider the propriety of the Superior Court’s affirmance of the trial court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of Appellees in their complaint in equity against Appellant on the grounds of abandonment. Because Appellees had available to them a full and adequate remedy at law, through contract principles generally applicable to oil and gas leases, and through the specific provisions of the subject leases, the Supreme Court concluded it was error to provide recourse through application of the equitable doctrine of abandonment. View "SLT Holdings v. Mitch-Well Energy" on Justia Law

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Developer Chelsea Solar LLC sought a certificate of public good (CPG) to construct and operate a 2.0-megawatt (MW) solar electric generation facility off of Willow Road in Bennington, Vermont. The Public Utility Commission (PUC) denied developer’s petition, concluding that the Willow Road Facility and an adjoining facility proposed by developer, “Apple Hill Solar,” were a single 4.0-MW “plant” under the applicable definition of this term. In its decision, the PUC also considered and rejected arguments by intervenors Apple Hill Homeowners Association (AHHA) and Mt. Anthony Country Club (MACC) regarding various CPG factors. It concluded, among other things, that the project would not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region under 30 V.S.A. section 248(b)(1) or have an undue adverse effect on aesthetics under section 248(b)(5). Developer appealed, challenging the PUC’s single-plant determination and its orders granting permissive intervention to AHHA and MACC. Intervenors cross-appealed, arguing the PUC erred in concluding the CPG factors were satisfied. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the PUC’s decision to deny the CPG based on its conclusion that the Willow Road and Apple Hill Facilities were a single plant. Given this conclusion, the Court did not reach the PUC’s evaluation of the CPG factors. The Court found no error in the PUC’s permissive-intervention decision. View "In re Petition of Chelsea Solar LLC" on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal concerning two jurisdictional challenges the City of Houston made to this suit brought by the Texas Propane Gas Association (TPGA) seeking a declaratory judgment that the City's ordinances regulating the liquefied petroleum gas industry to include imposing criminal fines for violations were preempted by state law, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not lack jurisdiction on either ground asserted by the City.In challenging the court's jurisdiction the City argued (1) civil courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate TPGA's preemption claim because the local regulations it challenges carry criminal penalties, and (2) TPGA could challenge only those regulations that had injuries at least one of its members. The trial court refused to dismiss the matter for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court held (1) TPGA's claim was not a criminal law matter that must be raised in defense to prosecution; and (2) TPGA's second argument, while framed as a challenge to TPGA's standing, was really a merits challenge, and TPGA demonstrated standing to bring its preemption claim. View "Texas Propane Gas Ass'n v. City of Houston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Defendants in this trespass to try title suit, holding that the trial court properly granted summary judgment for Defendants.Plaintiff and Defendants were lessees of adjacent mineral estates. Plaintiff brought this suit alleging that Defendants drilled several wells either on Plaintiff's leasehold or closer to the lease line that allowed by Railroad Commission rules. Defendants claimed that Plaintiff ratified the boundary line through a boundary stipulation between the fee owners of the two mineral estates and Plaintiff's written acceptance of the stipulation, thus foreclosing the trespass claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the boundary stipulation was void and therefore could not be ratified. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the boundary stipulation was valid; and (2) Defendants conclusively established their ratification defense. View "Concho Resources, Inc. v. Ellison" on Justia Law

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PLC, LLC and its co-party MH2, LLC (collectively PLC) held an overriding royalty interest in an Alaska oil and gas lease in the Ninilchik Unit. The unit operator applied to expand a subset of that unit called the Falls Creek Participating Area. After some back and forth over the extent of the expanded area, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) approved the expansion. The lease area in which PLC held royalty interests was included in the original application by the unit operator, but it was left out of the approved application. PLC appealed the decision to DNR’s Commissioner (the Commissioner), who dismissed the appeal on the grounds that PLC lacked standing. PLC appealed to the superior court, which affirmed the Commissioner’s decision. Because PLC has a financial stake in DNR’s decision whether to approve the unit operator’s proposal for unit expansion to include the PLC-associated lease, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded PLC had standing, reversed the superior court decision, and remanded to the agency for further consideration. View "PLC, LLC. v. Alaska, Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law