by
The unconstitutional legislative veto embedded in section 204(c)(1) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), 43 U.S.C. 1714, is severable from the large-tract withdrawal authority delegated to the Secretary in that same subsection. Invalidating the legislative veto provision does not affect the Secretary's withdrawal authority. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision rejecting challenges to the decision of the Secretary to withdraw from new uranium mining claims, up to twenty years, over one million acres of land near Grand Canyon National Park. In this case, the panel held that the environmental impact statement (EIS) did take existing legal regimes into account but reasonably concluded that they were inadequate to meet the purposes of the withdrawal; the Establishment Clause challenge failed under Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612–13 (1971); and the panel rejected challenges under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4332, and the National Forest Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1604(e). View "National Mining Ass'n v. Zinke" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision rejecting challenges to the Forest Service's determination that EFR had a valid existing right to operate a uranium mine on land within a withdrawal area of public lands around Grand Canyon National Park that the Secretary of the Interior withdrew from new mining claims. The panel held that the Mineral Report was a major federal action under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4332, and that the district court correctly held that Center for Biological Diversity v. Salazar, 706 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir. 2013), not Pit River Tribe v. U.S. Forest Service, 469 F.3d 768 (9th Cir. 2006), governed this case; that action was complete when the plan was approved; resumed operation of Canyon Mine did not require any additional government action; and thus the EIS prepared in 1988 satisfied NEPA. The panel also held that the Mineral Report approved an "undertaking" under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), 54 U.S.C. 306108; the Mineral Report did not permit, license, or approve resumed operations at Canyon Mine; and the original approval was the only "undertaking" requiring consultation under the NHPA. Finally, the environmental groups did not have prudential standing to challenge the Mineral Report. View "Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio" on Justia Law

by
Herndon sued Whiteside, doing business as Beam Oil, for breach of contract and conversion because defendant refused to pay plaintiff royalties arising from an oil and gas lease. The Macon County circuit court dismissed, finding that plaintiff did not own the claimed overriding royalty interest but defendant did. The Fourth District affirmed the dismissal of the conversion claim but remanded the breach of contract claim. Defendant appealed. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal. The instrument of assignment, signed after a series of transactions, unambiguously transferred all of plaintiff’s interest to defendant, so defendant’s refusal to pay plaintiff royalties was not a breach. Plaintiff and third parties each assigned to defendant “all of [their] right, title and interest in and to the oil, gas and mineral leases *** together with a like interest in and to all personal property located therein.” The instrument has no inconsistency or ambiguity that needs clarification. View "Ramsey Herndon LLC v. Whiteside" on Justia Law

by
SPP, a regional transmission organization (RTO), filed with FERC revisions to its tariff that reflected an agreement with Integrated System entities to integrate their facilities. Pursuant to the requirements of section 205 of the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. 824d, SPP filed with FERC revisions to its tariff that reflected the parties' agreement. FERC approved the revisions over the objections of Kansas. The DC Circuit denied Kansas' petition for review, holding that FERC accurately described the agreement as reciprocal; Kansas misread various precedents and the court rejected its contention that the arrangement violated critical norms of ratemaking; the court saw no basis for a claim of undue discrimination; and the court rejected Kansas' arguments regarding SPP's reliance on a study commissioned by the IS Parties. Finally, FERC did not abuse its discretion by deciding not to hold an evidentiary hearing on the disputed features of the record underlying its approval of the merger. View "State Corp. Commission of KS v. FERC" on Justia Law

by
AOPL petitioned for review of FERC's issuance of an order adopting the index formula to govern oil pipeline rates for the 2016 to 2021 period. The DC Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that there was no merit to AOPL's claim that FERC impermissibly relied solely on the middle 50 percent of pipeline cost-change data and failed to incorporate the middle 80 percent of cost-change data, and that FERC impermissibly used "Page 700" cost-of-service data to calculate the index level. The court held that the record makes it plain that the Commission adequately and reasonably explained its decision not to consider the middle 80 percent of pipelines' cost-change data; nothing in any of FERC's past index review orders bound the agency to use the middle 80 percent of pipelines' cost-change data; the Commission's rationale for utilizing the cost-of-service data from Page 700 was clear and reasonable; and there was nothing in the record to support AOPL's claim that FERC's decision to use Page 700 data indicates an unexplained shift in its measurement objective. View "Association of Oil Pipe Lines v. FERC" on Justia Law

by
Hess Corporation ("Hess") appealed the grant of summary judgment which held Sundance Oil and Gas, LLC ("Sundance") held the superior leasehold mineral interest in a property located in Mountrail County. Sundance and Hess both moved for summary judgment, each arguing they had a superior claim to the mineral interests. The district court determined the trust action was res judicata and granted partial summary judgment in favor of Sundance, quieting title to the leasehold interest. Although the district court entered an order for partial summary judgment, the parties stipulated to the remaining issues related to revenues and expenses, and the district court later entered a final judgment. On appeal, Hess argued: (1) the district court erred in applying res judicata to determine Sundance was a good-faith purchaser for value; (2) the district court erred in granting summary judgment in Sundance's favor because genuine disputes of material fact existed; and (3) the district court erred by concluding Sundance could obtain a superior lease for the same property without providing Hess actual notice of the trust action proceedings. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court improperly applied res judicata and failed to consider the factual issues raised by Hess: a district court may not use the findings in an unlocatable mineral owner trust action as res judicata in a subsequent quiet title action to resolve all factual disputes regarding whether a later purchaser was a good-faith purchaser for value. The judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Sundance Oil and Gas, LLC v. Hess Corporation" on Justia Law

by
In 2011, OXY USA Inc. (“Oxy”), made a mistake that caused it to overpay its property taxes on oil and gas produced from leaseholds. Oxy failed to deduct certain costs it was entitled to deduct. By the time it realized the mistake, the protest period had expired. The company nonetheless contended it was entitled to abatement and refund of the overpayment pursuant to section 39-10-114(1)(a)(I)(A), C.R.S. (2017). The county board of commissioners maintained that the abatement-and-refund provision did not apply because Oxy was the sole source of the error. Relying on Colorado Supreme Court precedent, the court of appeals held that Oxy couldn't receive abatement and refund for overpayment due to its own mistake. The Supreme Court held section 39-10-114(1)(a)(I)(A) gave taxpayers the right to seek abatement and refund for erroneously or illegally levied taxes resulting from overvaluation caused solely by taxpayer mistake. Therefore, Oxy was entitled to abatement and refund for its overpayment of taxes in the tax year at issue in this appeal. View "OXY USA Inc. v. Mesa County Board of Commissioners" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order invaliding the arbitration provision at issue in this case involving an oil and gas lease and remanded with directions that the case be dismissed and referred to arbitration. Petitioner and Respondents were parties to an oil and gas lease that included an arbitration provision. Respondents sued Petitioner, seeking to recover payments to which they claimed to be entitled under the lease and various other damages. Petitioner filed a motion to compel arbitration, relying on the arbitration provision in the lease. The circuit court denied Petitioner’s motion to compel arbitration, finding ambiguity in the lease’s arbitration provision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in going outside of the provisions in the arbitration clause to find language to create an ambiguity; and (2) the arbitration provision was not ambiguous and therefore should be enforced. View "SWN Production Co. v. Long" on Justia Law

by
The 1977 deed at issue in this case was ambiguous and of such doubtful meaning that reasonable minds disagreed as to the deed’s intent, and therefore, the circuit court erred in finding the deed was clear and in finding that the grantors did not convey one-half interest in oil and gas beneath a tract of land in Marshall County to the grantee. In 2013, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendants asserting that, in the 1977 deed, Plaintiffs retained ownership of the one-half undivided interest in the oil and gas and, therefore, Defendants trespassed on their oil and gas interest and engaged in conversion. Plaintiffs then amended the complaint to request a declaratory judgment interpreting the 1977 deed. The circuit court determined that the deed was clear and unambiguous and declared that Plaintiffs kept for themselves the one-half interest in the oil and gas. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in finding that the 1977 deed was unambiguous and in granting a declaratory judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. View "Gastar Exploration Inc. v. Rine" on Justia Law

by
Joan Hallin, John Hallin and Susan Bradford (collectively Hallin and Bradford) appeal from a judgment in favor of Inland Oil & Gas Corporation. In 2007, Hallin and Bradford each leased to Inland mineral interests they owned in 160 acres of land in Mountrail County. The leases provided Hallin and Bradford leased to Inland "all that certain tract of land situated in Mountrail County." Hallin and Bradford, along with members of their extended family, owned a fraction of the minerals in the entire 160 acres. On the basis of irregularities in the chain of title, it was unclear whether Hallin and Bradford collectively owned sixty net mineral acres or eighty net mineral acres when the parties executed the leases. Hallin and Bradford believed they owned sixty net mineral acres and their relatives owned sixty acres. When Hallin and Bradford executed the leases, they also received payment drafts for a rental bonus showing they each leased thirty acres to Inland. The leases provide royalty compensation based upon the number of net mineral acres. The North Dakota Supreme Court decided Hallin and Bradford collectively owned eighty net mineral acres and their relatives owned forty net mineral acres. Inland and Hallin and Bradford disagreed whether the leases covered all of Hallin and Bradford's mineral interests. Hallin and Bradford sued Inland, arguing they leased sixty acres and the remaining twenty acres were not leased. Inland argued Hallin and Bradford leased eighty acres because the leases cover all of their mineral interests. The district court granted summary judgment to Inland, concluding the leases were unambiguous and that "as a matter of law, the Hallins and Bradford leased to Inland whatever interest they had in the subject property at the time the leases were executed." Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hallin v. Inland Oil & Gas Corporation" on Justia Law