Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court
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With the approval of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), in 2005 the Public Service Company of Colorado (Xcel) began constructing a coal-fired electric power unit known as "Comanche 3." When Xcel sought to recover a portion of its construction costs nearly four years later in a rate proceeding, Petitioner Leslie Glustrom intervened. Petitioner sought to introduce testimony that Xcel acted improperly and, consequently, should not recover its costs. The PUC excluded most of her testimony, a ruling that Petitioner challenged. Petitioner separately challenged the depreciation rate and the possibility that Comanche 3 might not be "used and useful" at the time rates went into effect. The PUC denied her challenges, and the district court affirmed. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the PUC did not abuse its discretion when it struck substantial portions of Petitioner's testimony pursuant to the Colorado Rules of Evidence. Further, the depreciation rate approved by the PUC was established pursuant to law and in accordance with the evidence. Lastly, the PUC was free to exercise its discretion in departing from a strict application of the "used and useful" principle. Petitioner failed to meet her burden in showing why such a departure here would result in a rate that is unjust and unreasonable in its consequences. View "Glustrom v. Colorado Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court was whether section 38-5-105 C.R.S. (2011) granted condemnation authority to a company for the construction of a petroleum pipeline. Upon review, the Court concluded that the General Assembly did not grant expressly or implication, the power of eminent domain to companies for the construction of pipelines conveying petroleum. Therefore, section 38-5-105 did not grant that authority to Respondent Sinclair Transportation Company for its proposed pipeline project. The Court reversed the court of appeals' opinion that upheld the trial court's order granting Sinclair immediate possession of the property belonging to Petitioners Ivar and Donna Larson and Lauren and Kay Sandberg. View "Larson v. Sinclair Transp. Co." on Justia Law

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In 2003, Plaintiffs filed a class action alleging that Defendant BP America Production Company (BP) improperly deducted postproduction costs from royalty payments due between January 1986 and December 1997. To toll the applicable six-year statute of limitations, Plaintiffs claimed that BP fraudulently concealed material facts which gave rise to their claims. The trial court certified the class, and the appellate court affirmed. BP then appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing: (1) proof of fraudulent concealment was inherently individualized, and not amenable to resolution on a class basis; and, (2) the class time period was overly broad and as a result, includes members who had no costs deducted under the "netback" methodology. BP thus argued that the trial court erred in certifying the class. Upon review, the Supreme Court disagreed with either of BP's arguments, and affirmed the trial court's certification of the class. View "BP America Prod. Co. v. Patterson" on Justia Law

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The issue on appeal to the Supreme Court was whether the Court of Appeals' ruling that the Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution (Amendment 1) required statewide voter approval each time the Colorado Department of Revenue calculated an increase in the amount of tax due per ton of coal extracted as directed by the formula codified in C.R.S. 39-29-106. After Amendment 1 went into effect, the Department suspended using the tax mechanism for calculating upward adjustments in the amount of coal severance tax owed based on inflation. Following an auditor's review in 2006, an Attorney General's opinion and a rule-making proceedings, the Department recommended applying the statute to calculate the tax due. Implementation resorted in a tax of $0.76 per ton of coal as compared to $0.56 per ton collected in 1992 when Amendment 1 first passed. The Colorado Mining Association and taxpayer coal companies filed an action challenging collection of the $0.76 per ton amount. Colorado Mining asserted that whenever the Department calculated an upward adjustment in the amount of tax due under the statute, it must obtain voter approval. The Court of Appeals agreed, but the Supreme Court disagreed. The Court held that the Department's implementation of section 39-29-106 was not a tax increase, but a "non-discretionary duty required by a pre-Amendment 1 taxing statute which did not require voter approval." Accordingly, the Court reversed the appellate court's judgment and reinstated the trial court's judgment, which held that the Department must implement the statute as written. View "Huber v. Colo. Mining Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The issue on appeal to the Supreme Court in this case pertained to the standards a trial court applies when it decides whether to certify a class pursuant to C.R.C.P. 23. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' rulings: that the trial court must apply a "preponderance of the evidence" standard to C.R.C.P. 23's requirements, that the trial court must resolve factual or legal disputes dispositive of class certification regardless of any overlap with the merits, and that the trial court must resolve expert disputes regardless of any overlap with the merits. The Court also concluded that the trial court rigorously analyzed the evidence in determining that Plaintiffs in this case established an identifiable class and satisfied C.R.C.P. 23(b)(3)'s "predominance" requirement. View "Jackson v. Unocal Corp" on Justia Law