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Steve Forster, Daniel Krebs, and Debra Krebs (collectively “Forster/Krebs”) appealed summary judgment that dismissed their claims against B&B Hot Oil Service, Inc. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court correctly construed the language in the parties’ lease agreement, as a whole, to operated as a waiver of claims against each other for damages to the leased building and the contents therein. Furthermore, the Supreme Court concluded the provision in the parties’ lease waiving any claims against the other for any loss or damage to the leased premises or property therein was unenforceable to the extent it exempted B&B Hot Oil from responsibility for a willful or negligent violation of law. The Court thus affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "James Vault & Precast Co., et al. v. B&B Hot Oil Service, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Williams County appealed a the district court’s determination that its oil and gas leases with Twin City Technical LLC, Three Horns Energy, LLC, Prairie of the South LLC, and Irish Oil & Gas Inc. (“Lessees”), were void because the County failed to comply with the public advertising requirements for the lease of public land as provided in N.D.C.C. ch. 38-09. The Lessees sued the County in September 2015, about three and a half years after executing the leases. The North Dakota Supreme Court found record showed the Lessees received a June 2013 letter informing them of potential issues with the County’s mineral ownership. The Lessees contacted the County about the ownership issues by letter in April 2015. The County submitted an affidavit from its auditor stating bonus payments had already been spent and repayment would cause great hardship. Viewing the evidence and reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence in a light favorable to the County, the Supreme Court concluded there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether laches applied to bar the Lessees’ claim for repayment of the bonuses. The Supreme Court reversed that part of the judgment and remand for proceedings related to whether the Lessees’ delay in bringing their lawsuit was unreasonable, and whether the County was prejudiced by the delay. The Court affirmed as to all other issues. View "Twin City Technical LLC, et al. v. Williams County, et al." on Justia Law

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Daniel and Debra Bearce (“the Bearces”) appealed a judgment entered in favor of Yellowstone Energy Development LLC (“Yellowstone”) after the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment. In June 2006, representatives of a business entity that would eventually become Yellowstone went to the Bearces' home seeking to purchase 170 acres of land they owned. Yellowstone successfully secured an exclusive option to purchase the land. In 2008, Yellowstone exercised its option to purchase the land and the parties entered into a contract for deed. In 2009, Yellowstone and the Bearces modified the contract for deed to alter some of the payment terms. Both the original contract for deed and the 2009 modified contract for deed included a term providing for the payment of a portion of the purchase price with “shares” of a contemplated ethanol plant. Yellowstone subsequently abandoned its plan to build an ethanol plant on the Bearces’ land. In July 2010, Yellowstone sent a letter to the Bearces advising them their $100,000 in “value” would be issued despite Yellowstone’s abandonment of the plan to build an ethanol plant. The letter stated ownership units had not yet been issued and explained the Bearces would receive their ownership interest “at the time shares are issued to all its members.” Shortly after receiving that letter, the Bearces executed and delivered a deed for the property to Yellowstone. In December 2011, and again in October 2012, the Yellowstone Board of Directors approved a multiplier of three units per $1 invested for individuals who had provided initial cash investment in Yellowstone. The Bearces’ interest in Yellowstone was not given the either 3:1 multiplier. The Bearces' objected, and Yellowstone continued to refuse to apply the multiplier to the Bearces' interest. When unsuccessful at the trial court, the Bearces appealed, challenging the district court’s exclusion of parol evidence to support their allegation of fraud in the inducement. The Bearces also challenged the district court’s conclusion the Bearces were not owed a fiduciary duty. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment dismissing the Bearces’ claim for fraud and their claim for breach of contract. The Court reversed the district court’s dismissal of the Bearces’ claim for breach of a fiduciary duty and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bearce, et al. v. Yellowstone Energy Development, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the Ohio Power Siting Board approving the application of 6011 Greenwich Windpark, LLC to add three new wind-turbine models to the list of turbines suitable for Greenwich Windpark's proposed wind farm in Huron County, holding that the Board's approval of Greenwich Windpark's application did not require an amendment of its certificate. On appeal, Appellant argued that, in approving the proposed changes, the Board acted unlawfully and unreasonably by refusing to subject Greenwich Windpark's application to the enhanced minimum turbine-setback requirements applicable to any certificate "amendment" under the current versions of Ohio Rev. Code 4906.20 and 4906.201. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Board adopted a reasonable and practical approach for determining when an amendment is necessary for purposes of the statutes and that, under the circumstances, the Board's decision was not unlawful or unreasonable. View "In re Application of 6011 Greenwich Windpark, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) that modified and approved an electric-security plan (ESP) for the FirstEnergy Companies, holding that the Commission erred in modifying the ESP to add a distribution modernization rider (DMR) that was not part of the original application. The Commission concluded that the DMR, which allowed the FirstEnergy Companies to collect between $168 to $204 million in extra revenue per year, was valid under Ohio Rev. Code 4928.143(B)(2)(h) because the revenue it generated would purportedly serve as an incentive for the companies to modernize their distribution systems. The Supreme Court reversed the Commission's order as it related to the DMR and remanded with instructions to remove the DMR for the companies' ESP, holding that the DMR did not qualify as a proper incentive under section 4928.143(B)(2)(h) and that the conditions placed on the recovery of DMR revenue were not sufficient to protect ratepayers. View "In re Application of Ohio Edison Co." on Justia Law

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The company wants to mine raw uranium ore from a site near Coles Hill, Virginia. Virginia law completely prohibits uranium mining. The company alleged that, under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) preempts state uranium mining laws like Virginia’s and makes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) the lone regulator. The district court, the Fourth Circuit, and the Supreme Court rejected the company’s argument. The AEA does not preempt Virginia’s law banning uranium mining; the law grants the NRC extensive and sometimes exclusive authority to regulate nearly every aspect of the nuclear fuel life cycle except mining, expressly stating that the NRC’s regulatory powers arise only “after [uranium’s] removal from its place of deposit in nature,” 42 U.S.C. 2092. If the federal government wants to control uranium mining on private land, it must purchase or seize the land by eminent domain and make it federal land, indicating that state authority remains untouched. Rejecting “field preemption: and “conflict preemption” arguments, the Court stated that the only thing a court can be sure of is what can be found in the law itself and the compromise that Congress actually struck in the AEA leaves mining regulation on private land to the states. View "Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren" on Justia Law

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The Center for Biological Diversity appealed the denial of its petition for a writ of mandate challenging an environmental impact report (EIR) prepared by the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (Department) pursuant to a law known as Senate Bill No. 4. (Stats. 2013, ch. 313, sec. 2, enacting Sen. Bill No. 4; hereafter, Senate Bill No. 4.) Senate Bill No. 4 added sections 3150 through 3161 to the Public Resources Code to address the need for additional information about the environmental effects of well stimulation treatments such as hydraulic fracturing and acid well stimulation. As relevant here, Senate Bill No. 4 required the Department to prepare an EIR “pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act ([Public Resources Code] Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) [CEQA]), to provide the public with detailed information regarding any potential environmental impacts of well stimulation in the state.” The Department prepared and certified an EIR. The Center filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, challenging the EIR under CEQA and Senate Bill No. 4. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the Center’s cause of action for violations of CEQA, and subsequently denied the petition for a writ of mandate. The Court of Appeal found no reversible error in the denial of mandamus relief and affirmed. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. CA Dept. of Conservation" on Justia Law

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These consolidated cases concerned the kind of evidence that the Commission deems relevant to proceedings challenging the rate increase of oil pipelines. The DC Circuit vacated the challenged orders, holding that the Commission failed to provide sufficient reasons for changing its policy. Therefore, the court remanded for the Commission to explain or reconsider its decision to take into account post-rate-increase information. View "Southwest Airlines Co. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Florida Public Service Commission approving a request made by Florida Power and Light (FPL) for the recovery of costs through base rates for eight solar energy centers (the SoBRA projects), holding that the Commission's findings regarding the cost-effectiveness of the SoBRA projects were based on competent, substantial evidence. In granting FPL's request, the Commission concluded that the SoBRA projects comported with the terms of a settlement agreement providing for recovery of costs through base rates and that the projects were cost effective. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) by failing to object at the time that the settlement agreement was before the Commission and by failing to appeal the settlement order, Appellant waived its right to challenge the provisions in the settlement agreement related to the requirements and procedures for cost recovery of the SoBRA projects; and (2) the SoBRA projects met the terms set forth in the settlement agreement for cost recovery. View "Florida Industrial Power Users Group v. Brown" on Justia Law

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After a group of oil companies agreed to cooperatively develop oil prospects, EnerQuest acquired an interest in the specified area after the agreement took effect, but then refused to offer a share of those interests to the other parties. Other parties to the agreement filed suit against EnerQuest, alleging that it breached the contract by refusing to offer a pro-rata share of the newly acquired interests. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment and rendered judgment for EnerQuest, holding that EnerQuest did not breach the agreement. The court held that, although the contract requires that the parties share interests acquired within the area of mutual interest (AMI), the contract excludes interests already owned by parties from the AMI. Therefore, what was excluded from the AMI at the outset may never be included without a new agreement. View "Glassell Non-Operated Interests Ltd. v. Enerquest Oil & Gas, LLC" on Justia Law