Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Environmental Law
by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving the application of Crowned Ridge Wind, LLC for a permit to construct a wind energy farm in northeast South Dakota, holding that the PUC acted within its discretion in this case.After a contested hearing, the PUC issued a written decision approving the permit. Two individuals who lived in rural areas near the project and had intervened to oppose Crowned Ridge's application sought review. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) neither of the Intervenors' evidentiary claims were sustainable; and (2) even if the Intervenors' claims were preserved for appeal, the PUC acted within its discretion when it denied the Intervenors' challenges to certain testimony. View "Christenson v. Crowned Ridge Wind, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving the application of Crowned Ridge Wind II, LLC to construct a large wind energy farm in northeast South Dakota, holding that the PUC followed the applicable statutory directives in granting the construction permit and properly determined that Crowned Ridge satisfied its burden of proof under S.D. Codified Laws 49-41B-22.After a contested hearing, the PUC issued a written decision approving the permit. Two individuals who lived in rural areas near the project and had intervened to oppose Crowned Ridge's application sought review. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the PUC did not err when it determined that Crowned Ridge met its burden of proof to comply with all applicable laws and rules; and (2) the PUC's findings were not clearly erroneous as they related to crowned Ridge's burden under S.D. Codified Laws 49-41B-22(3). View "Christenson v. Crowned Ridge Wind, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decisions of the lower courts affirming a general permit that the Maryland Department of the Environment issued for operators of thirty-five small municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) in Maryland, including Petitioner Queen Anne's County, which operated a small MS4, holding that conditions based on regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the general permit for small MS4s are not unlawful simply because they may exceed the minimum requirements of the Clean Water Act.In Maryland Department of the Environment v. County Commissioners of Carroll County, 140 S. Ct. 1265 (2020), the Court of Appeals held that permits issued to counties that operated MS4s were lawful even if some permit conditions exceeded the minimum requirements of the Act. In the instant case, the circuit court for Queen Anne's County concluded that the decision in Carroll County addressed the issues raised by the County and affirmed the permit. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the holdings of Carroll County applied in this case; and (2) an impervious surface restoration requirement in the permit, which was similar to but less onerous than a permit requirement assessed in Carroll County, did not unlawfully make the County responsible for discharges by third parties. View "Small MS4 Coalition v. Department of Environment" on Justia Law

by
In this climate-change case, the First Circuit once more affirmed the order of the federal district court allowing Rhode Island's motion to return to state court its state court complaint against oil and gas companies for damages caused by fossil fuels, holding that Rhode Island's complaint did not give rise to federal removal jurisdiction.Rhode Island originally brought this complaint in state court, alleging state-law causes of action for, inter alia, public nuisance. After the energy companies removed the case to federal district court Rhode Island moved for the case to be remanded to state court. The district court granted the motion and ordered the case remanded to state court. The First Circuit affirmed the remand order. On certiorari, the Supreme Court instructed that the First Circuit give further consideration in light of recent caselaw. The First Circuit received supplemental briefs and then affirmed once more the judge's remand order, holding that removal based on federal-question jurisdiction and on other jurisdictional and removal statutes was not proper. View "State of Rhode Island v. Shell Oil Products Co., LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the trial court dismissing this complaint brought by the Attorney General alleging that Defendants, including Rover Pipeline, LLC, had illegally discharged millions of gallons of drilling fluids into Ohio's waters, causing pollution and degrading water quality, holding that the lower courts erred.Rover sought a license to construct an interstate pipeline that cross several counts in Ohio. As required by 33 U.S.C. 1341(a)(1) - section 401 of the Clean Water Act - Rover applied for certification for the state that any discharge into the state's navigable waters would comply with federal law. The state later brought this action against Rover and other companies involved in building the pipeline. The Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of this lawsuit, holding (1) the state waived its ability to participate in the certification process when it did not respond to Rover's application within one year; but (2) the waiver applies only to issues that are related to the section 401 certification, and therefore, remand was required for a determination of whether any of the state's allegations address issues outside the contours of the section 401 certification. View "State ex rel. Yost v. Rover Pipeline, L.L.C." on Justia Law

by
Petitioners sought review of the Commission's decision to authorize a new natural gas pipeline and compressor station in Agawam, Massachusetts. One of the petitioners, Berkshire, has failed to establish standing to challenge the Commission's decision. The other petitioner, Food & Water Watch, has raised challenges related to the Commission's compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.The DC Circuit mainly rejected Food & Water Watch's claims, but agreed with its contention that the Commission's environmental assessment failed to account for the reasonably foreseeable indirect effects of the project—specifically, the greenhouse-gas emissions attributable to burning the gas to be carried in the pipeline. Accordingly, the court granted Food & Water Watch's petition for review on that basis and remanded for preparation of a conforming environmental assessment. View "Food & Water Watch v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

by
Ammex operates a duty-free gas station in Wayne County, Michigan, near the bridge to Canada, but positioned “beyond the exit point” for domestic commerce established by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In 2012, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) sought to enforce an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule requiring Wayne County gas stations to dispense low-pressure gasoline in the summer. MDARD, in conjunction with the EPA, implemented this rule to bring Southeast Michigan’s ozone levels into compliance with the Clean Air Act.Because of its unique location and certain sales privileges granted to it by U.S. customs law, Ammex resisted efforts to apply the rule to its gasoline sales. In 2019, the Sixth Circuit determined that MDARD was enforcing federal regulatory law, and was not in violation of the Supremacy Clause or dormant Foreign Commerce Clause. Ammex then argued that the environmental rule, properly construed, did not apply to Ammex and that the customs statute giving Ammex the right to sell duty-free goods supersedes the environmental regulation and renders it unenforceable against Ammex. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of those claims. the Summer Fuel Law unambiguously applies to Ammex and does not impact Ammex’s ability to sell gas duty-free. View "Ammex, Inc. v. Michigan Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

by
Ordinances banning “land uses in support of” new oil and gas wells and “land uses in support of” wastewater injection in unincorporated areas of Monterey County were enacted as part of Measure Z, an initiative sponsored by PMC and passed by Monterey County voters.The trial court upheld, in part, a challenge to Measure Z by oil companies and other mineral rights holders. The court of appeal affirmed. Components of Measure Z are preempted by state laws. Public Resources Code section 3106 explicitly provides that the State of California’s oil and gas supervisor has the authority to decide whether to permit an oil and gas drilling operation to drill a new well or to utilize wastewater injection in its operations. Those operational aspects of oil drilling operations are committed by section 3106 to the state’s discretion and local regulation of these aspects would conflict with section 3106. View "Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. County of Monterey" on Justia Law

by
In 1942-1943, the government contracted with the Oil Companies to rapidly expand aviation gas (avgas) production facilities and sell vast quantities of avgas to the government with an artificially low profit margin. The government assumed certain risks, agreeing to reimburse “any new or additional taxes, fees, or charges” which the Companies “may be required by any municipal, state, or federal law ... to collect or pay by reason of the production, manufacture, sale or delivery of the [avgas].” The increased production led to increased amounts of acid waste that overwhelmed existing reprocessing facilities. The Companies contracted to dispose of the acid waste at the McColl site in Fullerton, California.In 1991, the United States and California sued under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. 9601, seeking to require the Companies to pay cleanup costs. The Ninth Circuit held that the government was 100% liable for the cost of cleaning up the benzol waste (about 5.5% of the waste) at the McColl site. The Companies have borne nearly all of the clean-up costs incurred since 1994; they submitted a contract termination claim, seeking reimbursement. The Claims Court ultimately found the government liable for all cleanup costs at the McColl site and awarded the Companies $99,509,847.32 for costs incurred through November 2015. The government paid. Remediation at McColl remains ongoing. The Companies sought damages incurred after November 2015. The Federal Circuit affirmed that the government is liable for those costs plus interest, rejecting arguments that res judicata bars the claims and that the Claims Court did not have jurisdiction under the Contract Settlement Act of 1944. View "Shell Oil Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Clean Air Act’s Renewable Fuel Standard Program (42 U.S.C. 7547(o)(2)(A)(i)) calls for annual increases in the amount of renewable fuel introduced into the U.S. fuel supply and sets annual targets for renewable fuel volumes. Each year, EPA implements those targets but has certain waiver authorities to reduce the annual targets below the statutory levels. Companies that produce renewable fuels argued that EPA’s 2019 volume levels (83 Fed. Reg. 63,704) were too low; fuel refiners and retailers argued that the 2019 volumes were too high. Environmental organizations challenged various aspects of the 2019 Rule relating to environmental considerations.The D.C. Circuit denied their petitions for review except for the environmental organizations’ challenges concerning whether the 2019 Rule would affect listed species, which it remanded without vacatur. The court upheld EPA’s 2019 continuation of its practice of granting exemptions to small refineries after promulgating the annual percentage standards; EPA’s decision to exclude electricity generated from renewable biomass (a form of cellulosic biofuel) from its cellulosic biofuel projection in the 2019 Rule; EPA’s determination that the 2019 volumes would not cause severe economic harm; and EPA’s decision not to obligate ethanol blenders under the RFS Program. EPA adequately explained its refusal to exercise the inadequate domestic supply waiver. EPA did not act arbitrarily in estimating that 100 million gallons of sugarcane ethanol were “reasonably attainable” for 2019. View "Growth Energy v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law