Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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Alliance Pipeline L.P. (“Alliance”) entered into contracts with four states (“State Agreements”) as well as contracts with individual landowners in order to build a natural gas pipeline. The contracts with landowners provide easements for the pipeline right-of-way. In 2018, some landowners on the pipeline right-of-way filed a class-action lawsuit against Alliance. After the class was certified, Alliance moved to compel arbitration for the approximately 73 percent of plaintiffs whose easements contain arbitration provisions. Alliance appealed, arguing the district court erred by not sending all issues to arbitration for the plaintiffs whose easements contain arbitration provisions.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court explained that the district court that the damages issues are subject to arbitration for the plaintiffs whose easements contain an arbitration provision. Plaintiffs make two arguments against sending any issues to arbitration: (1) Plaintiffs’ claims cannot be within the scope of the arbitration provisions because the claims allege lack of compensation for “ongoing yield losses,” not “damages to crops” and (2) Plaintiffs’ claims arise under the State Agreements, which do not have arbitration provisions. The court found the arbitration agreements to be enforceable and to cover all issues. The court held that as to the arbitration class members, the claims should be dismissed without prejudice. As to the members of the class without arbitration provisions, the court saw no reason why these class members cannot proceed with the lawsuit in the normal course at the district court. View "H&T Fair Hills, Ltd. v. Alliance Pipeline L.P." on Justia Law

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Marvin and Mildred Bay (“the Bays”) challenged a court order dismissing their trespass claim against Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC and Anadarko Land Corporation (collectively, “Anadarko”). Anadarko, an oil and gas company, owned the mineral rights under the Bays’ farm. The Bays brought a putative class action along with other surface landowners against Anadarko, alleging that Anadarko’s mineral lessees had exceeded the scope of their mineral rights by drilling multiple vertical wells on the surface owners’ land when it was possible to drill fewer wells of the “directional” type. At the conclusion of the Bays’ presentation of evidence, the district court found that the Bays’ evidence failed as a matter of law to demonstrate that Anadarko’s activities amounted to a trespass and dismissed the case. Finding that the district court applied the wrong legal standard, the Tenth Circuit reversed the dismissal in "Bay I," finding that Colorado’s common law of trespass required the Bays to show that Anadarko’s lessees had “materially interfered” with the Bays’ farming operations. The appellate court questioned whether the record demonstrated that the Bays met this standard in their trial, but because Anadarko had not raised this specific issue, the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. On remand, the district court again granted judgment as a matter of law to Anadarko on the material interference issue. Specifically, the court first held that it was bound by the Tenth Circuit's interpretation in Bay I of the material interference standard, then found that the Bays showed only that Anadarko’s conduct inconvenienced them—which was insufficient to satisfy the material interference standard. The Bays again appealed, arguing that the Tenth Circuit's discussion of the material interference standard in Bay I was dictum; thus, the district court incorrectly determined that it was bound to apply that standard. They further argued the material interference standard applied by the district court was inconsistent with the Colorado standard for trespass outlined in Gerrity Oil & Gas Corp. v. Magness, 946 P.2d 913 (Colo. 1997), and that the evidence they presented in their trial established a prima facie case of material interference under Gerrity. The Tenth Circuit determined the district court did not err in its second dismissal and affirmed judgment. View "Bay, et al. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-landowners alleged Anadarko Petroleum Corporation's intracompany practice of leasing its mineral interests to its affiliated operating company, including its 30% royalty rate, had the intent and effect of reducing the value of Plaintiffs’ mineral interests. Plaintiffs claimed Anadarko thereby maintained and furthered its dominant position in the market for leasing oil and gas mineral interests in violation of the Sherman Act § 2 and Wyoming antitrust laws. Plaintiffs sought treble damages and attorneys’ fees under § 4 of the Clayton Act. The federal district court certified a class action, for liability purposes only, comprised of “[a]ll persons . . . having ownership of Class Minerals during the Class Period.” Anadarko appealed the district court’s class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f). The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court applied the correct legal standard in deciding whether the class satisfied the requirements of Rule 23, and it did not abuse its discretion in certifying the class. The Court therefore affirmed the district court’s class certification. View "Black, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum, et al." on Justia Law

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Minnesota sued a litany of fossil fuel producers1 (together, the Energy Companies) in state court for common law fraud and violations of Minnesota’s consumer protection statutes. In doing so, it joined the growing list of states and municipalities trying to hold fossil fuel producers responsible for alleged misrepresentations about the effects fossil fuels have had on the environment. The Energy Companies removed to federal court. The district court granted Minnesota’s motion to remand, and the Energy Companies appealed.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that Congress has not acted to displace the state-law claims, and federal common law does not supply a substitute cause of action, the state-law claims are not completely preempted. The court reasoned that because the “necessarily raised” element is not satisfied, the Grable exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule does not apply to Minnesota’s claims. Further, the court wrote that the connection between the Energy Companies’ marketing activities and their OCS operations is even more attenuated. Thus, neither requirement is met, there is no federal jurisdiction under Section 1349. View "State of Minnesota v. American Petroleum Institute" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that toxic chemicals used during the carpet manufacturing process have been allowed to seep into the rivers that supply drinking water to communities near Dalton, including Rome, Georgia and the rest of Floyd County. On behalf of himself and a proposed class of water subscribers and ratepayers, he sued Dalton Utilities, a municipal corporation that operates Dalton’s wastewater treatment system, for violating the Clean Water Act and for creating a public nuisance. His lawsuit claims that Dalton Utilities has caused the City of Rome’s domestic water supply to be contaminated with dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals.   The question before the Eleventh Circuit was whether Dalton Utilities is entitled to municipal immunity from Plaintiff’s nuisance abatement (injunctive relief) claim. The Eleventh Circuit denied Plaintiff’s motion to dismiss Dalton Utilities’ appeal for lack of jurisdiction. However, the court affirmed district court’s order denying Dalton Utilities’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s nuisance abatement claim on municipal immunity grounds. The court explained that at oral argument counsel for Dalton Utilities conceded that if Phillips is still good law, Plaintiff has properly alleged a Phillips kind of nuisance claim for personal injury. The court agreed and held that municipal immunity does not shield Dalton Utilities from Plaintiff’s nuisance abatement claim. View "Jarrod Johnson v. Water, Light, and Sinking Fund Commission of City of Dalton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of individuals affected by power outages during Hurricane Ida, filed a state court class-action lawsuit against various energy companies. The energy companies removed the case to federal court. The district court then granted Plaintiff's motion to remand the case back to state court. The energy companies appealed on various grounds, including under the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA").The Fifth Circuit dismissed the portion of the energy companies' appeal that did not fall under CAFA, finding a lack of jurisdiction. However, CAFA permits a district court to review a district court's decision to remand a case. Thus, the court held that it had jurisdiction to review the CAFA-related bases for the energy companies' appeal. Upon a review of the proceedings below, the court held that the district court properly remanded the case back to state court. View "Stewart v. Entergy Corporation" on Justia Law

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In this second appeal in a class action case alleging a breach of the implied duty to market gas and underpaid royalties the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying a class's motion to amend its petition and granting partial summary judgment for Oil Producers Inc. of Kansas (OPIK) on the class's breach of duty to market gas as it related to the marketable condition rule, holding that there was no error.In the first appeal in this case, the Supreme Court listed the conditions under which a well operator may satisfy its duty to market raw gas production. On remand, the class of royalty owners moved to amend the petition to clarify that its original claim of breach of implied duty to market implicated the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing. The district court denied the motion and granted summary judgment for OPIK. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the law of the case doctrine precluded thecClass from relitigating its claim that OPIK breached its implied duty of faith and fair dealing as alleged in the motion to amend the petition; (2) the class was not entitled to prejudgment interest; and (3) the lower courts appropriately denied OPIK's statute of limitations defense to the class's conservation fee claim. View "L. Ruth Fawcett Trust v. Oil Producers Inc. of Kansas" on Justia Law

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Phelps Gas & Oil brought a class action in Colorado state court against Noble Energy and DCP Midstream for underpayments on oil and gas royalties Noble allegedly owed Phelps and other owners of royalty interests. DCP Midstream removed the class action to federal district court. Phelps then moved to remand the case to state court, arguing the case failed to meet the federal $75,000 amount-in-controversy requirement. The district court denied the motion, and later entered summary judgment, dismissing all of Phelps’s claims. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court erred in denying Phelps’s motion to remand, thus dismissing the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. "[N]either the value to Phelps nor the cost to either defendant in this case would result in more than $75,000 at controversy. Though the contracts between Noble and DCP are worth millions of dollars, we cannot base federal jurisdiction on potential future litigation involving the defendants." View "Phelps Oil and Gas v. Noble Energy" on Justia Law

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Appellee-defendant TEP Rocky Mountain, LLC (“TEP”) operated wells that produced natural gas in Colorado. These wells were subject to various leases or royalty Appellant-intervenors Ivo Lindauer, Sidney Lindauer, Ruther Lindauer, and Diamond Minerals LLC (the “Lindauers” or the “Intervenors”), were the representatives for a class of royalty owners who filed suit in 2006 in Colorado state court, alleging that TEP had underpaid royalties on various leases and royalty agreements. In 2008, TEP and the Lindauer class entered into a settlement agreement (the “Lindauer SA”) purporting to “resolve all class claims relating to past calculation of royalt[ies]” and to “establish certain rules to govern future royalty” payments. The Lindauer SA declared that the state court would retain “continuing jurisdiction” to enforce provisions of the settlement related to “the description of past and future royalty methodologies.” Approximately eight years passed, free of incident. But on July 18, 2017, a subset of the Lindauer class (the “Sefcovic class”) initiated this action against TEP in Colorado state court, alleging that TEP had calculated and paid royalties in a manner inconsistent with the Lindauer SA and contrary to the underlying royalty agreements. TEP removed the case to federal court. Appellants intervened in the district court, seeking to dismiss the action for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction. Through two separate motions to dismiss, the briefing from both parties "confused the bounds of federal subject matter jurisdiction and conflated that concept with the doctrines of abstention and comity, and with matters of venue and forum." Despite this misdirection, the district court properly exercised jurisdiction and rebuffed appellants’ attempts to unwind nearly eighteen months of class action litigation. After review, the Tenth Circuit concurred with the district court's judgment and affirmed it. View "Elna Sefcovic v. TEP Rocky Mountain" on Justia Law

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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