Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Energy, Oil and Gas
Tex. Coast Utils. Coal. v. R.R. Comm’n of Tex.
CenterPoint Energy Resources Corporation, a gas utility that distributes natural gas, sought to raise its rates. CenterPoint’s proposed rate schedule included a “cost of service adjustment” (COSA) clause. The Railroad Commission of Texas approved a rate increase, including a revised COSA clause that provided for automatic annual adjustments based on increases or decreases in CenterPoint’s cost of service. On judicial review, the district court held that the Commission lacked the statutory authority to adopt the COSA clause as part of CenterPoint’s rate schedule. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission had the authority to enter the final order in this case, including the COSA clause. Remanded.View "Tex. Coast Utils. Coal. v. R.R. Comm’n of Tex." on Justia Law
Robinson Township, et al v. Pa. Public Utility Commission and Attorney General –
Issues of constitutional import stemming from cross-appeals taken from the Commonwealth Court's ruling on expedited challenges to Act 13 of 2012 were before the Supreme Court in this case. Act 13 contained sweeping legislation affecting Pennsylvania’s environment particularly the exploitation and recovery of natural gas in Marcellus Shale. The litigation was accelerated in part because the legislation itself was designed to take effect quickly and imposed obligations which required the challengers to formulate their legal positions swiftly; and in part in recognition of the economic importance of the legislation to the Commonwealth and its citizens. Following careful deliberation, the Supreme Court's decision found several challenged provisions of Act 13 were unconstitutional. Madame Justice Todd, and Mr. Justice McCaffery, found that several core provisions of Act 13 violated the Commonwealth’s duties as trustee of Pennsylvania’s public natural resources under the Environmental Rights Amendment; other challenges lacked merit; and several issues required further Commonwealth Court proceedings. Mr. Justice Baer, concurred in the mandate, and joined the majority in all but Parts III and VI(C); Justice Baer would have found the "core constitutional infirmity" sounded in substantive due process. Accordingly, the Commonwealth Court was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Robinson Township, et al v. Pa. Public Utility Commission and Attorney General -" on Justia Law
Ind. Gas Co., Inc. v. Ind. Fin. Auth.
The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) approved a contract for the purchase of substitute natural gas and directed the procedure for resolving future related disputes. The court of appeals reversed the IURC's approval of the contract because a definition term in the contract deviated from the required statutory definition. The parties to the contract subsequently amended the contract to delete the language that the court of appeals found improper. The Supreme Court vacated the reversal of the IURC's order, held that the amended contract that corrected the definitional error rendered the definitional issue moot, and summarily affirmed the court of appeals as to all other claims.View "Ind. Gas Co., Inc. v. Ind. Fin. Auth." on Justia Law
Krug v. Helmerich & Payne, Inc.
Helmerich & Payne, Inc. (H&P) appeals a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, who are a class of oil and gas royalty owners. The class alleged that the defendant breached contractual and fiduciary duties by allowing uncompensated drainage of natural gas to occur from the leases and that the defendant engaged in constructive fraud and was unjustly enriched by failing to pay royalty amounts that the class alleged were included in a settlement between the defendant and ANR Pipeline. The jury returned verdicts on three alternative theories of recovery. The trial court judge granted judgment that included disgorgement of profits based on a sum the trial court found unjustly enriched H&P. On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, and remanded with instructions. H&P argued on appeal to the Supreme Court that: (1) the trial court erred in its jury instructions for uncompensated drainage that barred consideration of counterdrainage; (2) the appellate court erred by allowing a breach of contract claim to be recast as an equitable unjust enrichment claim; (3) the appellate court erred in affirming a "mathematically impossible" jury verdict on plaintiffs' constructive fraud claims; and (4) the appellate court erred in affirming the constructive fraud damage award notwithstanding that no fraud claim was ever certified. After review, the Supreme Court found: (1) the trial court committed no reversible error; (2) the jury found that plaintiffs did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that H&P acted in reckless disregard for the rights of others, nor that H&P acted intentionally and with malice toward others; (3) because the Court reversed the judgment based on equity, the third reason for granting certiorari was answered; and (4) having reversed the constructive fraud damage award, the Court held this issue was moot. View "Krug v. Helmerich & Payne, Inc." on Justia Law
Dick Wolfe v. Pawnee Well Users, Inc.
This case was an appeal of a final water court order which voided a rule promulgated by the Office of the State Engineer regarding nontributary ground water extracted in the course of coalbed methane (CBM) production and other oil and gas development. The final rules were challenged by owners of vested water rights and citizen groups whose members owned vested water rights. After extensive briefing by the parties, the water court upheld the Final Rules in their entirety except for the "Fruitland Rule," which it invalidated. The water court held that although H.B. 1303 granted authority to the State Engineer to promulgate the Fruitland Rule, the Tribal Rule essentially divested the State Engineer of that authority. The water court also found that the State Engineer had issued an improper "advisory" rule, and thus could not promulgate the Fruitland Rule unless he first obtained a judicial determination of his authority over nontributary ground water underlying the Reservation. The State Engineer, the Tribe, and several Intervenors appealed the water court's decision. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the water court erred in invalidating the Fruitland Rule based on the Tribal Rule. The Court concluded the Tribal Rule did not divest the State Engineer of this authority: it stated on its face that the Final Rules themselves do not form the basis of or "establish" the State Engineer's authority to administer the nontributary ground water within Reservation boundaries. Because the Tribal Rule did not divest the State Engineer of his authority, the water court erred in invalidating the Fruitland Rule on that ground. Furthermore, the water court also erred in labeling the Fruitland Rule an "advisory" rule and in requiring the State Engineer to obtain a judicial determination that he had authority to administer nontributary ground water within the boundaries of the Reservation. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the water court’s invalidation of the Fruitland Rule and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Dick Wolfe v. Pawnee Well Users, Inc." on Justia Law
Wagner v. Crossland Construction Company, Inc.
Patrick Wagner appealed the grant of summary judgment that held as a matter of law that his property was burdened by either an express or an implied roadway easement, and that dismissed his claims for injunctive relief and damages against Crossland Construction Company, Inc., Baker Hughes Oilfield Operations, Inc., M & K Hotshot & Trucking, Inc., and Titan Specialties, Ltd. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded that, as a matter of law, the language in the warranty deed at issue in this case did not create or reserve an express easement. Furthermore, the Court concluded genuine issues of material fact precluded the district court from resolving whether an implied easement exists. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings.View "Wagner v. Crossland Construction Company, Inc." on Justia Law
Van Sickle v. Hallmark & Assoc., Inc.
Earl and Harold Van Sickle appealed, and Hallmark & Associates, Inc., Frank Celeste, William R. Austin, Phoenix Energy, Bobby Lankford, and Earskine Williams, and Missouri Breaks, LLC, cross-appealed an amended judgment that held Missouri Breaks liable to the Van Sickles for unpaid pre-bankruptcy confirmation royalties and awarding the Van Sickles interest and attorney's fees. Upon careful consideration of the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded the court did not err in holding Missouri Breaks liable under state law for pre-bankruptcy confirmation royalties owed to the Van Sickles. Furthermore, the Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding the Van Sickles attorney's fees and did not err in awarding them simple interest under the statute. View "Van Sickle v. Hallmark & Assoc., Inc." on Justia Law
Wausau Development Corporation v. Natural Gas & Oil, Inc.
Wausau Development Corporation ("WDC") appeals a circuit court judgment in favor of Natural Gas & Oil, Inc. ("NGO"). NGO filed a complaint seeking a judgment determining the validity of certain oil and gas leases held by WDC to particular wells located in Lamar County. NGO alleged: WDC was a Mississippi corporation with a principal office located in Mississippi and that WDC was not authorized to conduct business in Alabama because WDC was not registered as a foreign entity; that WDC had obtained leases to the wells but that, by their terms, WDC's leases had expired and had not been held open by production; and it had obtained new and current leases on the wells. WDC argued on appeal that the circuit court exceeded its discretion by granting NGO's motion for a judgment on the pleadings because, it said, the undisputed facts in the pleadings did not support the circuit court's judgment as a matter of law. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed the circuit court's judgment. View "Wausau Development Corporation v. Natural Gas & Oil, Inc. " on Justia Law
Posted in: Energy, Oil and Gas
Merit Energy Co. v. Dep’t of Revenue
This case concerned Merit Energy Company's 2006 natural gas severance and ad valorem tax liability for wells located in several counties. Merit was a take-in-kind interest owner, which is a party who elects to take a portion of the mineral produced rather than receive monetary remuneration for its share of the production. The State Board of Equalization (SBOE) determined that Merit failed to timely appeal several final Wyoming Department of Revenue (DOR) decisions regarding the amount of taxable gas it had received and dismissed Merit's appeal. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in affirming the SBOE's dismissal as untimely; and (2) even if the Court permitted Merit to appeal the notice of valuation change sent by the DOR, the doctrine of collateral estoppel precluded Merit from doing so.View "Merit Energy Co. v. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law
Bd of Educ. of Roxana Cmty. Unit Sch. Dist/ No. 1 v. Pollution Control Bd.
WRB owns the Wood River Petroleum Refinery in Madison County. Following major renovations, WRB applied to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency under the Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/11-25) to have 28 of the refinery’s systems, methods, devices, and facilities certified as “pollution control facilities” for preferential tax assessment. IEPA recommended approval of two of the requests by the Pollution Control Board (PCB), which accepted the IEPA’s recommendations. The Board of Education sought to intervene in the proceedings where certification had been granted, arguing that it had a legally cognizable interest because the certifications would ultimately deprive it of tax revenue. PCB denied the petitions as moot. While requests to reconsider were pending, the IEPA recommended that the PCB approve WRB’s applications to certify the remaining 26 systems. Before PCB took action on those cases, the Board of Education sought to intervene. PCB denied the motion and granted certification in each case. The appellate court dismissed the Board of Education’s consolidated appeal for lack of jurisdiction under section 41 of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, under which the Board of Education sought review The court noted the specific provision for appeals in proceedings involving PCB’s “issuance, refusal to issue, denial, revocation, modification or restriction of a pollution control certificate,” contained in the Property Tax Code,35 ILCS 200/11-60. That provision requires that proceedings originate in the circuit court, rather than by direct administrative review in the appellate court. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed.View "Bd of Educ. of Roxana Cmty. Unit Sch. Dist/ No. 1 v. Pollution Control Bd." on Justia Law