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In an amendment to the Clean Air Act (CAA), Congress directed the EPA to operate a Renewable Fuel Standards Program (the RFS Program) to increase oil refineries’ use of renewable fuels. But for small refineries that would suffer a “disproportionate economic hardship” in complying with the RFS Program, the statute required the EPA to grant exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Petitioner Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company owned and operated two refineries in Wyoming: one in Sinclair, and another in Casper. Both fell within the RFS Program’s definition of “small refinery” and were exempt from the RFS requirements until 2011. Those exemptions were extended until 2013 after the Department of Energy found Sinclair’s Wyoming refineries to be among the 13 of 59 small refineries that would continue to face “disproportionate economic hardship” if required to comply with the RFS Program. Sinclair then petitioned the EPA to extend their small-refinery exemptions. The EPA denied Sinclair’s petitions in two separate decisions, finding that both refineries appeared to be profitable enough to pay the cost of the RFS Program. Sinclair filed a timely petition for review with the Tenth Circuit court, which concluded the EPA exceeded its statutory authority under the CAA in interpreting the hardship exemption to require a threat to a refinery’s survival as an ongoing operation. Because the Court found the EPA exceeded its statutory authority, it vacated the EPA’s decisions and remanded to the EPA for further proceedings. View "Sinclair Wyoming Refining v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Sierra Club challenged the Department's grant of an application to export liquified natural gas (LNG) using terminals and liquefaction facilities (Freeport Terminal) on Quintana Island. On the merits, the DC Circuit held that the Department did not fail to fulfill its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by declining to make specific projections about environmental impacts stemming from specific levels of export-induced gas production; the Department did not fail to fulfill its obligations with respect to the potential for the U.S. electric power sector to switch from gas to coal in response to higher gas prices; the court rejected Sierra Club's challenges to the Department's examination of the potential greenhouse-gas emissions resulting from the indirect effects of exports; and Sierra Club has given the court no reason to question the Department's judgment that the FLEX application was not inconsistent with the public interest. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Sierra Club v. DOE" on Justia Law

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ExxonMobil’s 859-mile long Pegasus Pipeline transports crude oil from Patoka, Illinois to Nederland, Texas. In March 2013, it ruptured, spilling several thousand barrels of oil near Mayflower, Arkansas. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, within the U.S. Department of Transportation, conducted an investigation and concluded that ExxonMobil violated several pipeline safety regulations under the Pipeline Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 60101. Specifically, the agency found that the integrity management program (IMP) plan had not properly accounted for the risk of longitudinal seam failure and that this was a contributing factor in the Mayflower release. The agency assessed a $2.6 million civil penalty and ordered ExxonMobil to take certain actions to ensure compliance with those regulations. The Fifth Circuit vacated certain items in the order. Finding that it owed no deference to the agency’s interpretation of the regulation, the court concluded that ExxonMobil reasonably applied 49 CFR 195.452(e)(1)’s instruction to “consider” all relevant risk factors in making its pipeline susceptibility determination. The court remanded with an instruction to reevaluate the basis for the penalty associated with another violation. View "ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. v. United States Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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This case involves the allocation of production costs among the Entergy Operation Companies. LPSC petitioned for review of FERC's implementation of its decision to delay the effective date of the Bandwidth Remedy. The DC Circuit denied LPSC's petition with respect to FERC's advancement of the effective date to the 2005 period, and denied its petition as to the application of the Bandwidth Remedy to the 2005 period. The court granted FERC's request to remand to FERC for further consideration of the denial of Section 206 refunds for the September 2001-May 2003 effective period. View "Louisiana Public Service Commission v. FERC" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning the distribution of natural gas to consumers, the Supreme Judicial Court accepted the conclusion of the Department of Public Utilities that only an end consumer, and not a marketer - or a private company - is entitled to a refund under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 164, 94F. Specifically at issue was whether the assignment of pipeline capacity by a local distribution company (LDC) to a marketer caused the marketer to become a customer of the LDC such that it was entitled a share of that refund. Here, a pipeline was ordered by FERC to issue a refund. Because Bay State, an LDC, was the contracting party with the pipeline, Bay State received the full refund. The Department ordered Bay State to issue a refund to its customers, which it did. Energy Express, a marketer, intervened, arguing that it should receive a proportional share of the refund directly. The Department rejected Energy Express’s position. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Department reasonably interpreted “customer” as used in section 94F to include only those entitles that consume the natural gas provided or transported by Bay State, which interpretation did not include Energy Express; and (2) therefore, Energy Express was not entitled to a refund. View "Energy Express, Inc. v. Department of Public Utilities" on Justia Law

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A person dealing with a personal representative does not receive the protections of N.D.C.C. 30.1-18-14 unless the person obtains the personal representative's letters of appointment or any other court order giving the personal representative authority to act in this state. Dudley Stuber, trustee of the D.J. Stuber Land and Royalty Trust, and Rocky Svihl, trustee of the RGKH Mineral & Royalty Trust (collectively "Plaintiffs") appealed a judgment deciding ownership of certain mineral interests in favor of the estates of Victoria Davis and Helen Jaumotte. Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment, arguing there were no genuine issues of material fact and they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. They claimed Jay Jaumotte, as personal representative of the estates, was authorized to sell property in North Dakota as a foreign personal representative, and Northland Royalty Corp. (to whom Jay Jaumotte first conveyed the interests) was a good-faith purchaser and was entitled to statutory protections under N.D.C.C. 30.1-18-14, and the statute of limitations had expired, precluding the heirs' claims. The heirs also moved for summary judgment. The heirs argued the deeds transferring the minerals to Northland were void because Jay Jaumotte lacked any authority to act on behalf of the Davis or Helen Jaumotte estates when dealing with North Dakota property, the Plaintiffs were not good-faith purchasers, and there were genuine issues of material fact about whether Northland was a good-faith purchaser. EOG Resources intervened and responded to the motions, arguing the Plaintiffs had no interest in the mineral estate, the Plaintiffs' predecessor-in-interest had notice of the heirs' potential interests in the property and failed to investigate, and the Plaintiffs and Northland were not good-faith purchasers. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision quieting title, but reversed its decision awarding damages to the Victoria Davis and Helen Jaumotte heirs. View "Stuber v. Engel" on Justia Law

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A party with a royalty interest in a property, who has not signed a division order with an oil company, may recover underpayments from the oil company. Newfield Production Company ("Newfield") operates four oil and gas wells on the property at issue here. The Trustees of the George S. Maragos Residuary Trust ("the Trust") asserted they owned a 1/8 of 1% royalty interest in the property. While operating the wells, Newfield relied upon a division order-title opinion ("division order") to allocate the royalty interest for the property. The Trust argued it acquired its interest in the royalties through the following process: H. H. Hester possessed a royalty interest in the property and conveyed to George S. Maragos a 1/8% royalty interest in December 1937. George S. Maragos retained his interest until his death when the administrators of his estate assigned the royalty interest to the Trust in January 1985. The Trust sued Newfield for an accounting and all unpaid revenue from the 1/8% royalty interest in the property. The Trust moved for summary judgment. Newfield filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, arguing it was not a proper party defendant because it did not have a competing interest in the 1/8% royalty interest. The district court granted Newfield's cross-motion for summary judgment, holding the Trust claim was really a quiet title claim, Newfield was not a proper party defendant, the proper parties are the other competing royalty interest owners, and the Trust was not entitled to attorney's fees and interest under N.D.C.C. 47-16-39.1. The Trust appealed the district court's summary judgment in favor of Newfield, determining Newfield was not a proper party defendant. Because Newfield failed to establish they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Maragos v. Newfield Production Company" on Justia Law

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Petitioners filed suit challenging EPA's promulgation of a Final Rule setting several renewable fuel requirements for the years 2014 through 2017. The D.C. Circuit rejected all challenges except for one: the court agreed with Americans for Clean Energy that EPA erred in how it interpreted the "inadequate domestic supply" waiver provision. The court held that the "inadequate domestic supply" provision authorizes EPA to consider supply-side factors affecting the volume of renewable fuel that is available to refiners, blenders, and importers to meet the statutory volume requirements. It does not allow EPA to consider the volume of renewable fuel that is available to ultimate consumers or the demand-side constraints that affect the consumption of renewable fuel by consumers. Accordingly, the court granted Americans for Clean Energy's petition for review of the Final Rule, vacated EPA's decisions to reduce the total renewable fuel volume requirements for 2016 through use of its "inadequate domestic supply" waiver authority, and remanded for further consideration. View "Americans for Clean Energy v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Consolidation Coal Company appealed after the Department of Labor (“DOL”) awarded survivor’s benefits to Judy Noyes under the Black Lung Benefits Act (“BLBA”). The administrative law judge (“ALJ”) determined that Mrs. Noyes was entitled to a statutory presumption that the death of her husband, James Noyes, resulted from his exposure to coal dust in underground coal mines. The ALJ further concluded that Consolidation failed to rebut that presumption by showing either that Mr. Noyes did not suffer from pneumoconiosis or that pneumoconiosis did not cause his death. Consolidation argued on appeal the ALJ erred in retroactively applying the rebuttal standard from DOL’s revised regulations to Mrs. Noyes’ claim for benefits, and that the ALJ’s determination that Consolidation failed to meet its burden of rebuttal was not supported by substantial evidence. After review, the Tenth Circuit held the ALJ permissibly applied the rebuttal standard from the revised regulations to Mrs. Noyes’ claim, and that standard could further be applied retrospectively to claims, like Mrs. Noyes’, that were filed prior to the effective date of the revised regulations. However, the Court agreed with Consolidation that the ALJ incorrectly stated the revised rebuttal standard in analyzing Mrs. Noyes’ claim. View "Consolidation Coal Company v. OWCP" on Justia Law

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The Department of the Interior (“DOI”) adopted an administrative appeal requirement for agency actions under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (“SMCRA”). Following an initial decision by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), DOI regulations required an adversely affected party to concurrently file an appeal and a petition for stay pending appeal with the Interior Board of Land Appeals (“IBLA”) to exhaust administrative remedies. However, an ALJ decision is not always rendered inoperative pending appeal: the IBLA retains discretion to grant or deny the stay. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review was whether the IBLA’s denial of a stay rendered an ALJ’s decision final for purposes of judicial review, notwithstanding a pending IBLA appeal. The Tenth Circuit found that intra-agency review “is a prerequisite to judicial review only when expressly required by statute or when an agency rule requires appeal before review and the administrative action is made inoperative pending that review.” Because the ALJ’s decision in this case was not rendered inoperative pending appeal to the IBLA, it was final agency action. View "Farrell-Cooper Mining v. DOI" on Justia Law