Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

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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

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In this contract dispute involving the correct interpretation of a mineral lease's "continuous drilling program" provision the Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred in reversing partial summary judgment for the lessee on the contract-construction issue.Lessor and Lessee were the successors-in-interest to an oil-and-gas top lease covering a 30,450-acre parcel of land. At the end of the primary term, Lessee was required to reassign to Lessor all of Lessee's operating rights in each tract of the lease not then held by production unless Lessee was engaged in a "continuous drilling program." Notwithstanding Lessee's continued drilling operations, Lessor filed a suit seeking a declaration that the lease had terminated. The trial court granted partial summary judgment for Lessor, concluding that the lease had not terminated as to non-producing tracts. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) under the lease's special definition of drilling operations, activities other than spudding-in a well are sufficient to maintain the lease as to non-producing tracts; and (2) the record conclusively established that Lessee was engaged in a continuous drilling program within the meaning of the lease. View "Sundown Energy LP v. HJSA No. 3" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the trial court concluding that indemnity claims fell within an exception to an arbitration clause and that the non-signatory assignees were bound by the agreement under a theory of assumption, holding that Plaintiffs' request for a declaratory judgment was subject to mandatory arbitration.As president of Wagner Oil Company, Bryan Wagner signed a purchase and sale agreement (PSA) purchasing several assets from Apache Corporation. The PSA contained an indemnification provision and an arbitration clause. Later, third-party surface landowners filed lawsuits against Apache, seeking damages for alleged environmental contamination caused by Apache's operation of the assets before they were sold. Apache filed a demand for arbitration against Plaintiffs, including Wagner Oil and Wagner, for indemnity and defense. Plaintiffs then filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that Plaintiffs were not parties to the PSA and therefore not subject to the arbitration and indemnity clauses. The trial court denied Apache's motion to compel arbitration. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the indemnity disputes over third party-claims fall within the scope of the arbitration clause and outside its exception; and (2) the Wagner Oil signees were bound by the arbitration clause. View "Wagner v. Apache Corp." on Justia Law