Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court
Hurd v. Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court affirming amended integration orders entered by the Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission (AOGC), holding that the AOGC did not exceed its statutory authority in granting SWN Production, LLC's (SWN) request to reduce the royalty payable under Appellants' oil and gas leases when the lessees elected to go "non-consent."On appeal, Appellants argued that the AOGC's actions were both ultra vires and arbitrary and capricious. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) while there is no statutory provision specifically stating that the AOGC may reduce the royalty rate contained in a lease, there is also no statutory language expressly stating that the consenting parties - such as SWN - are responsible for payment of royalties when an uncommitted leasehold working-interest owner elects to go non-consent; and (2) the AOGC's orders were neither ultra vires nor arbitrary and capricious. View "Hurd v. Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission" on Justia Law
Stephens Production Co. v. Mainer
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting Plaintiffs' motion for class certification in this action alleging that Defendant, which leased with Plaintiffs to drill and sell hydrocarbons from the leased property, improperly suspended royalty payments, holding that the requirements of numerosity and superiority were met.The complaint alleged that the royalty payments were suspended in an effort by Defendant to recoup improper deductions. Plaintiffs moved for class certification, which the trial court granted. Defendant appealed, arguing that Plaintiffs failed to satisfy the numerosity and superiority requirements. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the numerosity and superiority requirements were satisfied in this case. View "Stephens Production Co. v. Mainer" on Justia Law
SEECO Inc. v. Snow
Edward Snow, individually and as putative class representative on behalf of all similarly situated people, filed a complaint against SEECO, Inc. alleging that SEECO had underpaid royalties to plaintiffs, a group of landowners who had entered into natural gas leases with SEECO. Snow subsequently filed a motion for class certification. The circuit court granted Snow’s motion to present a class of Arkansas citizens who entered into lease agreements with SEECO for the production of natural gas on their property in the Fayetteville Shale. SEECO appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in certifying the class. View "SEECO Inc. v. Snow" on Justia Law
Lipsey v. Cox
Appellants, property owners and holders of oil and gas leases, filed a class-action complaint against Appellee, the circuit court clerk, alleging that Appellee and two of her deputies falsely and fraudulently notarized oil and gas leases. On remand and following a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee, concluding that Appellants had failed to show any damages as a result of Appellee’s purportedly unlawful act in recording the leases. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the grant of summary judgment was not in error, as none of the evidence relied upon by Appellants created a factual question as to whether they sustained damages as a result of the actions alleged in the complaint. View "Lipsey v. Cox" on Justia Law
Walls v. Ark. Oil & Gas Comm’n
Appellants appealed form the decision of the circuit court, which upheld an order of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission granting relief to SEECO, Inc. in connection with a proposed drilling and production unit. The court of appeals affirmed in part, finding that the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence. However, the court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction the portion of the appeal in which Appellants argued that the circuit court erred by not allowing them to present additional evidence to the Commission. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals opinion and affirmed in part and dismissed in part, holding (1) the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence and was not arbitrary and capricious; and (2) the Court lacked jurisdiction to consider Appellants' appeal from the circuit court's order denying Appellants' request to present additional evidence to the Commission. View "Walls v. Ark. Oil & Gas Comm'n" on Justia Law
Nicholson v. Upland Indus. Dev. Co.
Appellants appealed the order of the circuit court dismissing their claims and quieting title to mineral interests, including oil and gas rights, in appellee Upland Industrial Development Company, Inc. The Supreme Court affirmed on appeal, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) interpreting the Strohacker doctrine and applying the doctrine to the facts of this case; (2) placing the burden of proof on Appellants; and (3) finding that this was an actino to quiet title and, thus, finding no constitutional right to a jury trial was present. In addition, the Court concluded that Appellant's had no standing to raise on appeal the argument that the circuit court erred in granting Appellee SEECO, Inc.'s motion for attorneys' fees because Appellants were not aggrieved by the court's order. View "Nicholson v. Upland Indus. Dev. Co." on Justia Law
Staggs v. Union Pac. R.R.
Kenny and Shelia Staggs brought suit in circuit court seeking quiet title to the oil and gas rights on certain real property of which they claimed ownership of the surface and subsurface rights. The Staggses asserted that while Union Pacific Railroad Company claimed ownership of the oil and gas rights in the property and leased those rights to Heartland Exploration, it did so erroneously based on a 1934 deed. In the deed, Union Pacific's predecessor in title conveyed property to two individuals but reserved for itself "all the minterals" in or under the land. The Staggses contended that the oil and gas rights did not pass to Union Pacific but instead passed through the chain of title to them. Union Pacific, Heartland, and XTO Energy (collectively, Defendants) moved for summary judgment. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendants, finding that the general reservation of minerals in the 1934 deed included oil and gas as a matter of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, based on case law, the 1934 reservation at issue included any rights to oil and gas. View "Staggs v. Union Pac. R.R." on Justia Law
Independence County v. City of Clarksville
Independence County and the City of Clarksville entered into a power purchase and sale agreement that included an arbitration provision. After the City informed the County that it was going to terminate the agreement, the County filed a motion to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion, ruling that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because (1) the City validly exercised its right to terminate the agreement, and without the revocation of the entire agreement, the City was released from the obligation to arbitrate; and (2) the arbitration agreement lacked mutuality of obligation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable due to the absence of mutuality of obligation, and the arbitration agreement was void on that basis. View "Independence County v. City of Clarksville" on Justia Law
May v. Akers-Lang
Appellant Taxpayers were the owners of all or a portion of the oil, gas and other minerals in, on, and under each of their real property located in the counties party to this lawsuit. Taxpayers filed a complaint against the Counties, seeking declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, alleging that an ad valorem property tax was an illegal exaction. The circuit court concluded that Taxpayers had failed to make a proper illegal-exaction challenge and dismissed their lawsuit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court was correct in dismissing the Taxpayers' complaint where (1) the crux of Taxpayers' argument was that the tax assessed against them was illegal because the assessment was flawed; and (2) the Taxpayers' avenue of relief for its assessment grievance lay with each county's equalization board. View "May v. Akers-Lang" on Justia Law
Hempstead Cnty. Hunting Club, Inc. v. Sw. Elec. Power Co.
Three questions of law were certified to the Supreme Court from the federal district court. The certified questions arose from a complaint from Petitioner Hempstead County Hunting Club, Inc. (Hempstead). Hempstead contended that Respondent Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) violated multiple public utilities statutes in the construction of its "Turk Plant." The first question from the federal court involved whether Hempstead was required to bring its claims before the state Public Service Commission (PSC) before suing in federal court. The Supreme Court concluded that under Arkansas law, Hempstead was first required to bring its claims before the Arkansas PSC. A court review of its claims should be precluded until Hempstead exhausted its administrative remedies. As a result, the Supreme Court did not address the remaining two certified questions.