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Enduro Operating, LLC and Echo Production, Inc. were two of several parties to a joint operating agreement (JOA). Under the JOA, Echo, as a party wishing to undertake a new drilling project, had to provide notice of the proposed project to the other parties to the JOA, who then had thirty days to decide whether to opt in or out of the project. By opting in, a party agreed to share in the cost and risk of the project. If a party opted out of the project (as Enduro did in this case), then the party was deemed “non-consenting,” and exempt from any of the cost or risk associated with the new project, but could not share in any of the profits from the new project until the consenting parties recovered four-hundred percent of the labor and equipment costs invested in the new project. The question before us is what activities are adequate as a matter of law to 6 satisfy the contractual requirement that a consenting party actually commence the 7 drilling operation. The Court of Appeals concluded that the language in Johnson v. Yates Petroleum Corp., 981 P.2d 288, indicating that “any” preparatory activities would be sufficient was too permissive. The Court of Appeals was persuaded that Echo’s lack of on-site activity at the proposed well site, other than surveying and staking, and lack of a permit to commence drilling was evidence as a matter of law that Echo had not actually commenced drilling operations. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Echo and remanded for an entry of summary judgment in favor of Enduro. The New Mexico Supreme Court reversed, holding that the failure to obtain an approved drilling permit within the relevant commencement period was not dispositive; “[a] party may prove that it has actually commenced drilling operations with evidence that it committed resources, whether on-site or off-site, that demonstrate its present good-faith intent to diligently carry on drilling activities until completion. “ View "Enduro Operating LLC v. Echo Prod., Inc." on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs were four companies with common owners and operators: Halifax-American Energy Company, LLC; PNE Energy Supply, LLC (PNE); Resident Power Natural Gas & Electric Solutions, LLC (Resident Power); and Freedom Logistics, LLC d/b/a Freedom Energy Logistics, LLC (collectively, the “Freedom Companies”). The defendants were three companies and their owners: Provider Power, LLC; Electricity N.H., LLC d/b/a E.N.H. Power; Electricity Maine, LLC; Emile Clavet; and Kevin Dean (collectively, the “Provider Power Companies”). The Freedom Companies and the Provider Power Companies were engaged in the same business, arranging for the supply of electricity and natural gas to commercial and residential customers in New Hampshire and other New England states. The parties’ current dispute centered on a Freedom Company employee whom the defendants hired, without the plaintiffs’ knowledge, allegedly to misappropriate the plaintiffs’ confidential and proprietary information. According to plaintiffs, defendants used the information obtained from the employee to harm the plaintiffs’ business by improperly interfering with their relationships with their customers and the employee. A jury returned verdicts in plaintiffs’ favor on many of their claims, including those for tortious interference with customer contracts, tortious interference with economic relations with customers, tortious interference with the employee’s contract, and misappropriation of trade secrets. The jury awarded compensatory damages to plaintiffs on each of these claims, except the misappropriation of trade secrets claim, and included in the damages award attorney’s fees incurred by plaintiffs in prior litigation against the employee for his wrongful conduct. Subsequently, the trial court awarded attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs under the New Hampshire Uniform Trade Secrets Act (NHUTSA). On appeal, defendants challenged: (1) the jury’s verdicts on plaintiffs’ claims for tortious interference with customer contracts and the employee’s contract; (2) the jury’s award of damages for tortious interference with customer contracts and tortious interference with economic relations, and its inclusion in that award of the attorney’s fees incurred in the plaintiffs’ prior litigation against the employee; and (3) the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees to plaintiffs under the NHUTSA. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Halifax-American Energy Company, LLC v. Provider Power, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the petition for a writ of mandamus filed by a group of landowners (“Landowners”) seeking an order compelling the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management (“the Division”) and its chief to commence appropriation proceedings to compensate Landowners for their land that was included in an oil and gas drilling unit. Landowners objected an an order issued by the chief requiring that a reservoir of oil and gas underlying multiple tracts of land be operated as a unit to recover the oil and gas, arguing that the order amounted to a taking of their property for which they must be compensated. The Supreme Court denied Landowners’ petition for a writ of mandamus, holding that Landowners had an adequate remedy by way of appeal to the county court of common pleas. View "State ex rel. Kerns v. Simmers" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied petitions for review challenging FERC's orders approving PJM's tariff that determined the rates paid to energy providers for providing electric capacity in the broad mid-Atlantic region. Petitioners argued that FERC lacked substantial evidence to approve the estimates of labor costs that formed part of the calculation of the cost of new entry; FERC should have accepted the labor-cost calculations of petitioners' expert; and FERC erred in approving another input to the estimated cost of new entry. The court held that petitioners' objections failed to undermine the substantial evidence supporting FERC's figure for the cost of new entry and failed to overcome the court's deferential standard of review. View "PJM Power Providers Group v. FERC" on Justia Law

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FERC issued a series of orders empowering incoming generators within the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) region to elect to self-fund this new construction, or to seek financing from third parties, regardless of whether the current grid owners wish to fund the construction themselves. The DC Circuit vacated the orders, holding that there was neither evidence nor economic logic supporting FERC's discriminatory theory as applied to transmission owners without affiliated generation assets. The court also held that FERC did not adequately respond to petitioners' argument that involuntary generator funding compelled them to construct, own, and operate facilities without compensatory network upgrade charges – thus forcing them to accept additional risk without corresponding return as essentially non-profit managers of these upgrade facilities. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Ameren Services Co. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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An employee of a trucking company was killed while on the job at an oil-well site. The employee's surviving daughter brought a wrongful death action against the owner and operator of the well site, Stephens Production Company. Stephens Production Company moved to dismiss the case pursuant to 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec. 5(A), which provides that "any operator or owner of an oil or gas well . . . shall be deemed to be an intermediate or principal employer" for purposes of extending immunity from civil liability. The district court denied the motion to dismiss, finding that section 5(A) of Title 85A was an unconstitutional special law. The trial court certified the order for immediate interlocutory review, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari review. The Supreme Court concluded that the last sentence of section 5(A) of Title 85A was an impermissible and unconstitutional special law under Art. 5, section 59 of the Oklahoma Constitution. The last sentence of section 5(A) was severed from the remainder of that provision. View "Strickland v. Stephens Production Co." on Justia Law

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P&P Industries, LLC, d/b/a United Oilfield Services, and Pauper Industries, Inc., appealed a judgment entered in favor of Continental Resources, Inc., after a jury returned a verdict finding United and Pauper's conduct constituted fraud but they did not breach their contracts with Continental. Continental was an oil producer; United and Pauper provided transportation, water hauling, and related services and materials to Continental in North Dakota. Pauper signed a Master Service Contract with Continental, and United signed a Master Service Contract. Continental sued United and Pauper, seeking damages for claims of breach of contract, tortious breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and deceit. Continental alleged United and Pauper violated state and federal limits and regulations on the number of hours a truck driver may drive; they violated Continental's employee policies, and engaged in improper and fraudulent billing. After a hearing, the district court denied United's motion for summary judgment on Continental's claims; denied Continental's motion for summary judgment on United's breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and tortious breach of contract counterclaims; and denied Continental's motion for summary judgment on its fraud and breach of contract claims. The court granted Continental's motion for summary judgment against United's breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud counterclaims. The court also granted summary judgment on Continental's motion related to damages and ruled, if United prevailed at trial, its damages would be limited to the net profits it could have earned during the 30-day termination notice period, overall expenses of preparation, and its expenses in pursuit of reasonable efforts to avoid or minimize the damaging effects of the breach. United unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration of the damages issue. A jury trial was held. In deciding Continental's claims, the jury found neither United nor Pauper breached its contract obligations to Continental, both United and Pauper's conduct was fraudulent or accompanied by fraud, both United and Pauper's conduct was deceitful or accompanied by deceit, and the jury awarded Continental $2,415,000 in damages for its claims against United but did not award Continental any damages for its claims against Pauper. In deciding United's counterclaims, the jury found Continental breached its contract with United, but Continental was excused from performing based on United's prior material breach, United's failure to perform a condition precedent, United's fraud or deceit, and equitable estoppel. Judgment on the jury's findings was entered against Pauper. Continental was awarded its costs and disbursements against United and Pauper, jointly and severally. United and Pauper argued on appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court that the verdicts were inconsistent and the district court erred in limiting the amount of damages United could seek on its counterclaim. The Supreme Court reversed, finding the "verdict is inconsistent and perverse and cannot be reconciled." The matter was remanded for a new trial. View "Continental Resources, Inc. v. P&P Industries, LLC I" on Justia Law

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Counce Energy BC #1, LLC, appealed the judgment entered on a jury verdict awarding Continental Resources, Inc., $153,666.50 plus costs and disbursements for breaching its contract with Continental by failing to pay its share of expenses to drill an oil and gas well, and dismissing with prejudice Counce's counterclaims. Because the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Continental's breach of contract action and Counce's counterclaims, the North Dakota Supreme Court vacated the judgment. View "Continental Resources, Inc. v. Counce Energy BC #1, LLC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged two sets of orders issued by the Commission regarding a scarcity pricing mechanism in the New England power market. The DC Circuit held that the exhaustion requirements of the Federal Power Act (FPA), 16 U.S.C. 824d, deprived it of jurisdiction over the petition to review the Tariff Order. Therefore, the court dismissed the petition in Case No. 16-1023. The court held, on the merits, that the Commission was not arbitrary or capricious in denying petitioners' complaint and thus denied the petition in Case No. 16-1024 seeking review of the Complaint Order. View "New England Power Generators Association v. FERC" on Justia Law

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This case involved an implied covenant to market gas. Energen owned and operated oil and gas wells in the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Its wells were subject to leases and other agreements (many of which were quite old) requiring it to pay a monthly royalty or overriding royalty on production to the Anderson Living Trust, the Pritchett Living Trust, the Neely-Robertson Revocable Family Trust (N-R Trust), and the Tatum Living Trust. Believing Energen was systematically underpaying royalties, the Trusts filed a putative class action complaint against it. The New Mexico Trusts claimed Energen was improperly deducting from their royalties their proportionate share of (1) the costs it incurs to place the gas produced from the wells in a marketable condition (postproduction costs) and (2) a privilege tax the State of New Mexico imposes on natural gas processors (the natural gas processors tax). They also alleged Energen had not timely paid royalties or interest thereon, as required by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Proceeds Payments Act. Both the New Mexico Trusts and the Tatum Trust further claimed Energen was wrongfully failing to pay royalty on the gas it used as fuel. The district judge dismissed the New Mexico Trusts’ marketable condition rule claim for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and entered summary judgment in favor of Energen on the remaining claims. All of the Trusts appealed those judgments. For the most part, the Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court. The Tenth Circuit’s analysis differed from that of the district court relating to: (1) the fuel gas claims made by the N-R Trust and Tatum Trust; and (2) the New Mexico Trusts’ claim under the New Mexico Oil and Gas Proceeds Payments Act. As to the former, the N-R Trust’s overriding royalty agreement required royalty to be paid on all gas produced, including that gas used as fuel. And the Tatum Trust’s leases explicitly prohibited Energen from deducting post-production costs (Energen treats its use of the fuel gas as an in-kind postproduction cost). Moreover, the “free use” clauses and royalty provisions in the Tatum Trust’s leases limited the free use of gas to that occurring on the leased premises. Because use of the fuel gas occurred off the leased premises, Energen owed royalty on that gas. With regard to the latter, the district court was right in permitting Energen to hold funds owed to the N-R Trust in a suspense account until a title issue concerning a well was resolved in favor of that Trust. However, the district court did not address whether the N-R Trust was entitled to statutory interest on those funds. It was so entitled, yet the current record (at least in the Tenth Circuit’s analysis) did not show interest to have been paid on the funds. View "Anderson Living Trust v. Energen Resources" on Justia Law