Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Energy, Oil and Gas
Mississippi Power Company v. Mississippi Public Service Comm’n
Mississippi Power Company filed documents asserting confidentiality with the Mississippi Public Service Commission related to a certificate-of-public-convenience-and-necessity proceeding in January 2009. In July 2012, Bigger Pie Forum (BPF) requested three of those documents from the Commission, and Mississippi Power sought a protective order. Following a hearing, the Chancery Court ordered that the documents be produced. Mississippi Power appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Chancery Court to the extent that it ordered disclosure of the January 2009 gas price forecasts and CO2 cost assumptions that were similar in kind to those already published (by news media). However, the Court remanded this case to the Chancery Court to should consider the documents under seal and order that information pertaining to natural gas price forecasts and CO2 costs assumptions be produced by Mississippi Power. View "Mississippi Power Company v. Mississippi Public Service Comm'n" on Justia Law
Long v. Castle Tex. Prod. Ltd. P’ship
In this oil and gas billing dispute, Plaintiffs sued Defendant for, inter alia, breach of a joint operating agreement. Defendant counterclaimed and prevailed on its counterclaim. The trial court awarded Defendant prejudgment interest, but the court of appeals remanded to recalculate prejudgment interest. On remand, the trial court determined that the record had to be reopened, but rather than obtain the additional evidence, Plaintiff waived its claim for prejudgment interest. The trial court then awarded Defendant postjudgment interest from the date of its original, erroneous judgment. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that new evidence was needed; but (2) because the remand necessitated reopening the record for additional evidence, postjudgment interest must accrue from the final judgment date rather than the original judgment date. Remanded.View "Long v. Castle Tex. Prod. Ltd. P’ship" on Justia Law
In re Programmatic Changes to the Standard-Offer Program and Investigation into the Establishment of Standard-Offer Prices under the Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development
Applicant Ecos Energy, LLC appealed the Public Service Board's decision that its proposed solar power project did not qualify for a standard-offer power purchase contract under Vermont's Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development (SPEED) program because it exceeded the statutory limit on generation capacity. In 2009, the Board issued an order in which it prescribed various procedures and requirements for the standard-offer program. The standard-offer program was administered by the SPEED facilitator, VEPP, Inc. One of the participants in the implementation process, Central Vermont Public Service, commented that separate projects would need to enter into separate interconnection agreements with the utility, enter into separate standard contracts, and obtain separate certificates of public good. Another participant, Renewable Energy Vermont, commented that the statute was clear that "separate plants that share common infrastructure and interconnection should be considered as one plant." In April 2013, VEPP issued a request for proposals (RFP) for projects. Applicant proposed three 2.0 MW solar projects (the Bennington Solar project, the Apple Hill Solar project, and the Sudbury Solar project). Applicant's three projects were the lowest-priced projects. In submitting the RFP results to the Board, VEPP noted that the Bennington project and the Apple Hill project would be located on the same parcel of property and the generation components of the project were "physically contiguous." It requested that the Board make a determination as to whether or not the two projects constituted a single plant. The Board accepted the Bennington project and disqualified the Apple Hill project, which had a higher price. The Board authorized VEPP to enter into standard-offer contracts with applicant for the Bennington and Sudbury projects. Applicant subsequently petitioned the Board to reconsider and modify its order. When it refused, applicant appealed the decision. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court found that the Board's conclusion that the Bennington and Apple Hill projects constituted a single plant was contrary to the plain language of the applicable statute: the Bennington and Apple Hill projects would qualify as "independent technical facilities." As such the Court reversed the Board's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.View "In re Programmatic Changes to the Standard-Offer Program and Investigation into the Establishment of Standard-Offer Prices under the Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development" on Justia Law
FPL Energy, LLC v. TXU Portfolio Mgmt. Co., L.P.
TXU Portfolio Management Company (TXU) entered into a contract with FPL Energy, LLC to receive electricity and renewable energy credits (RECs) from wind farms owned by FPL. After FPL failed to provide the electricity and RECs, TXU filed a breach of contract action against FPL. FPL counterclaimed, arguing that TXU failed to provide it with sufficient transmission capacity. The trial court granted two partial summary judgments declaring (1) the contracts required TXU to provide transmission capacity, and (2) the contracts’ liquidated damages provisions were unenforceable. After a jury trial on the remaining issues, the trial court entered take-nothing judgments for both parties. The court of appeals reversed both summary judgment rulings. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the court of appeals’ holding that TXU owed no contractual duty to provide transmission capacity; but (2) reversed the portion of the court of appeals’ judgment regarding liquidated damages, holding that the liquidated damages provisions applied only to RECs and were unenforceable as a penalty. Remanded for a determination of damages.View "FPL Energy, LLC v. TXU Portfolio Mgmt. Co., L.P." on Justia Law
Morrow v. Caldwell
Wayne Morrow filed a permissive appeal to the Circuit Court's order denying his request for a judgment declaring that the $100,000 cap on damages in section 11-47-190, Ala. Code 1975, applied to Morrow, a municipal employee who was sued in his individual capacity. In 2009, Alice Yu sought to have Alabama Power Company restore electrical service in her name at a commercial building she was leasing. The premises had been without power for approximately eight months. The City of Montgomery sent Morrow to perform an electrical inspection of the premises and clear the premises for service before electrical service was restored. Keandarick Russell, a minor, was staying with his great-grandmother, who lived next door to the premises. Russell was playing on the concrete pad on which the air-conditioning system was located and was electrocuted when he came in contact with a chain-link fence adjacent to the premises. When the incident occurred, wires from an uncovered junction box at the electrical source had come in contact with a portion of the fence, and, as a result, the fence had become electrified. Russell was electrocuted when he touched the fence. Shameka Caldwell, as Russell's mother and next friend, filed a wrongful-death action against multiple defendants, including Morrow and Yu for two fictitiously named defendants. In the amended complaint, Caldwell alleged that Morrow had negligently, recklessly, and/or wantonly inspected the premises and had negligently, recklessly, and/or wantonly allowed electrical service to be restored to the premises. In his answer, Morrow asserted that he was entitled to State immunity, to State-agent immunity, and to qualified immunity. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the plain language of 11-47-190 did not limit the recovery on a claim against a municipal employee in his or her individual capacity, the $100,000 statutory cap on recovery would not apply to Caldwell's claims against Morrow. Therefore, the trial court properly denied Morrow's request for a judgment declaring that it would. View "Morrow v. Caldwell" on Justia Law
ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc. v. Williams Alaska Petroleum, Inc.
Williams Alaska Petroleum owned and operated a refinery, which ConocoPhillips Alaska supplied with crude oil. ConocoPhillips demanded that Williams tender a payment of $31 million as adequate assurances of Williams’s ability to perform if an ongoing administrative rate-making process resulted in a large retroactive increase in payments that Williams would owe ConocoPhillips under the Exchange Agreement. ConocoPhillips offered to credit Williams with a certain rate of interest on that principal payment against a future retroactive invoice. Williams transferred the principal of $31 million but demanded, among other terms, credit corresponding to a higher rate of interest. Williams stated that acceptance and retention of the funds would constitute acceptance of all of its terms. ConocoPhillips received and retained the funds, rejecting only one particular term in Williams’s latest offer but remaining silent as to which rate of interest would apply. Years later, after the conclusion of the regulatory process, ConocoPhillips invoiced Williams retroactively pursuant to their agreement. ConocoPhillips credited Williams for the $31 million principal already paid as well as $5 million in interest calculated using the lower of the two interest rates. Williams sued ConocoPhillips, arguing that a contract had been formed for the higher rate of interest and that it was therefore owed a credit for $10 million in interest on the $31 million principal. The superior court initially ruled for Williams, concluding that a contract for the higher rate of interest had formed under the Uniform Commercial Code when ConocoPhillips retained the $31 million while rejecting one offered term but voiced no objection to Williams’s specified interest term. On reconsideration, the superior court again ruled for Williams, this time determining that a contract for the higher rate of interest had formed based on the behavior of the parties after negotiation under the UCC, or, in the alternative, that Williams was entitled to a credit for a different, third rate of interest in quantum meruit. The superior court also ruled in favor of Williams on all issues related to attorney’s fees and court costs. ConocoPhillips and Williams both appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the superior court was right the first time and that the parties entered into a contract for the higher rate of interest under the UCC.View "ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc. v. Williams Alaska Petroleum, Inc." on Justia Law
Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Whiting Oil and Gas Corp.
The issue before the Supreme Court in this case called for a determination of whether section 15-11-1106(2) C.R.S. (2013) required a court to reform a revocable option that was negotiated as part of a commercial contract entered into before the effective date of the statutory Rule Against Perpetuities Act. In Colorado, the Act superseded the common law rule for nonvested property interests created after May 31, 1991. The common rule still applied to nonvested property interests created prior to that date. Under the Act, all donative transfers after that date were valid so long as the property interest created vested or terminated within ninety years of its creation. With regard to the specifics of this case, the trial court concluded that the revocable option at issue violated the common law rule against perpetuities. The Court then inserted a savings clause pursuant to statute, to prevent the option from being voided by the common law rule, and ruled that the option holder was entitled to specific performance of the reformed option. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court concluded, however, that the option did not violate the common law rule, and therefore no reformation by the trial court was necessary. View "Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Whiting Oil and Gas Corp." on Justia Law
Adams v. Mississippi State Oil & Gas Board
Shirley Adams and other landowners challenged a petition of the U.S. Oil and Gas Association that proposed amendments to Statewide Rule 681 which authorized the surface and subsurface landspreading of NORM as additional methods of disposal. The Mississippi Oil and Gas Board approved the proposed amendments to Rule 68, and its decision was upheld by the Chancery Court. After careful consideration, the Supreme Court found that the landowners failed to prove that the Board's adoption of amended Rule 68 was arbitrary and capricious or against the weight of the evidence. In addition, the Board's decision did not violate federal law or the landowners' constitutional rights; however, the Board violated state law when it exceeded its statutory authority under Section 53-1-17 by amending Rule 68 without gaining the approval of the Mississippi Commission on Environmental Quality. Accordingly, the Chancery Court's decision was reversed and the case remanded for review by the Commission.View "Adams v. Mississippi State Oil & Gas Board" on Justia Law
BP Pipelines (Alaska) Inc. v. Alaska
The issue before the Supreme Court in this case involved the assessed value of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System for property tax purposes. The parties disputed the method used to assess the pipeline's value as well as the specific deductions made for functional and economic obsolescence. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's valuation. View "BP Pipelines (Alaska) Inc. v. Alaska" on Justia Law
Denali Citizens Council v. Alaska Dept. of Natural Resources
Denali Citizens Council challenged the Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) finding that issuing a license to Usibelli Coal Mine for gas exploration in the Healy Basin was in the best interests of the state on two grounds: (1) DNR failed to take a "hard look" at the economic feasibility of excluding certain residential areas and wildlife habitat from the license; and (2) DNR's treatment of environmental mitigation measures in the best interest finding was arbitrary and capricious. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's order upholding DNR's decision to issue the gas exploration license to Usibelli because the Court concluded that DNR did not act arbitrarily in developing and publishing its best interest finding. View "Denali Citizens Council v. Alaska Dept. of Natural Resources" on Justia Law