Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
by
The case involves Husky Marketing & Supply Company and Phillips 66 Company, two customers of a crude-oil pipeline, who petitioned for review of orders issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approving the pipeline’s application to charge market-based rates for its shipping services. The petitioners argued that the Commission adopted an arbitrary and capricious definition of the relevant geographic destination market for the pipeline’s services when analyzing whether it had market power.Previously, the matter was referred to an administrative law judge (ALJ) who, after an evidentiary hearing, found the correct destination market was the narrower Wood River market advanced by Husky and Phillips, rather than the broader St. Louis BEA Economic Area advanced by Marathon. Both Marathon and the Petitioners filed exceptions to the ALJ’s decision. The Commission unanimously reversed the ALJ’s decision and concluded the correct geographical destination market was Wood River together with Patoka, Illinois.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reviewed the FERC’s orders under the “arbitrary and capricious” standard. The court held that the FERC did not act arbitrarily or capriciously when it concluded Wood River and Patoka together, rather than Wood River alone, represent the area in which a shipper may rationally look for transportation service. The court also held that the FERC was not required to perform any additional empirical analysis in this case. Therefore, the petitions for review were denied. View "Husky Marketing and Supply Company v. FERC" on Justia Law

by
The case involves an appeal by Marmen Inc., Marmen Énergie Inc., Marmen Energy Co., the Government of Québec, and the Government of Canada against a decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Department of Commerce had imposed countervailing duties on imports of certain utility scale wind towers from Canada, arguing that the Canadian government had provided illegal subsidies to the producers and exporters of these towers.The case was initially reviewed by the United States Court of International Trade, which upheld the Department of Commerce's decision. The appellants then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.The appellants argued that the Department of Commerce had erred in its assessment of three government programs and its computation of the sales denominator used to calculate the subsidy rate. They contended that the subsidy rate should have been de minimis, meaning it was too trivial or minor to merit consideration.The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the judgment of the U.S. Court of International Trade, ruling that the Department of Commerce's determination was supported by substantial evidence and was in accordance with the law. The court rejected the appellants' arguments, finding that the Department of Commerce had reasonably determined that the auditor's adjustment was unreliable, and that the three subsidy programs at issue did provide countervailable subsidies. View "GOVERNMENT OF QUEBEC v. US " on Justia Law

by
The case involves the Michigan Attorney General's attempt to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 Pipeline, which runs underwater across the Straits of Mackinac between Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas. The Attorney General filed the case in Michigan state court in 2019, alleging violations of three state laws. Enbridge responded by moving for summary disposition, arguing that the complaint failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The state court held oral argument on those dispositive motions, focusing on preemption issues, including whether the Attorney General’s claims were preempted by either the Pipeline Safety Act or the federal Submerged Lands Act.In 2020, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a notice of revocation of the 1953 easement, calling for Line 5 to be shut down by May 2021, and simultaneously filed a complaint in state court to enforce the notice. Enbridge timely removed the Governor’s case to the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The district court denied the Governor’s motion to remand, holding that it had federal-question jurisdiction. The Governor subsequently voluntarily dismissed her case.Enbridge removed the Attorney General’s case to federal court in December 2021, citing the district court’s order denying the motion to remand in the Governor’s case. The Attorney General moved to remand this case to state court on grounds of untimely removal and lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The district court denied the motion on both grounds, excusing Enbridge’s untimely removal based on equitable principles and estopping the Attorney General from challenging subject-matter jurisdiction.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court's decision, holding that Enbridge failed to timely remove the case to federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b), and there are no equitable exceptions to the statute’s deadlines for removal. The case was remanded to Michigan state court. View "Nessel v. Enbridge Energy, LP" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a dispute over the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) approval of a project to expand a natural-gas pipeline from western Pennsylvania to the New York metropolitan area. The petitioner, Food & Water Watch, argued that FERC overlooked environmental issues in approving the project. Specifically, they claimed that FERC's Environmental Impact Statement failed to quantify greenhouse-gas emissions from upstream drilling for the extra gas, to quantify ozone emissions from its downstream burning, and to categorize emissions impacts as either significant or insignificant. Additionally, Food & Water Watch argued that FERC did not adequately consider New York State and New York City laws mandating reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions.The case was reviewed by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The lower courts had approved the project, with FERC issuing a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the East 300 Upgrade Project. FERC had prepared a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which estimated the downstream carbon-dioxide emissions but declined to address upstream environmental effects. FERC also declined to characterize downstream emissions as significant or insignificant.The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the petitioner's contentions and denied the petitions for review. The court found that FERC had reasonably concluded that there was too much uncertainty regarding the number and location of additional upstream wells. The court also held that FERC had reasonably explained its decision not to give a quantitative estimate of how much ozone would be produced as a result of the project. Finally, the court found that FERC had amply discussed the significance of GHG emissions and that it was not required to label the increased emissions and ensuing costs as either significant or insignificant. The court also found that FERC had reasonably explained why the New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act did not undercut its finding of need for the project. View "Food & Water Watch v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

by
The case revolves around the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) and two market participants, RWE Renewables Americas, LLC and TX Hereford Wind, LLC. Following Winter Storm Uri, the Legislature amended the Public Utility Regulatory Act (PURA) to require that protocols adopted by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) must be approved by the PUC before they take effect. ERCOT then adopted a revision to its protocols, which was approved by the PUC, setting the price of electricity at the regulatory maximum under Energy Emergency Alert Level 3 conditions. RWE challenged the PUC's approval order in the Third Court of Appeals, arguing that the order was both substantively and procedurally invalid.The Third Court of Appeals held that the PUC's order was both substantively invalid—because the PUC exceeded its statutory authority by setting the price of electricity—and procedurally invalid—because the PUC failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act’s rulemaking procedures in issuing the order.The Supreme Court of Texas reviewed the case and held that the PUC’s approval order is not a “competition rule[] adopted by the commission” subject to the judicial-review process for PUC rules. The court found that PURA envisions a separate process for ERCOT-adopted protocols, and the statutory requirement that the PUC approve those adopted protocols does not transform PUC approval orders into PUC rules eligible for direct review by a court of appeals. Therefore, the Third Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction over this proceeding. The Supreme Court of Texas vacated the court of appeals’ judgment and dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. View "Public Utility Commission v. RWE Renewables Americas, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court of New Mexico affirmed the decision of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) to deny Southwestern Public Service Company’s (SPS) application for a financial incentive under the Renewable Energy Act (REA). SPS had proposed to retire renewable energy certificates (RECs) earlier than required to exceed the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), and in return, requested a rate rider that would allow it to charge customers one dollar for each REC retired over the twenty percent standard. The PRC denied the application, finding that SPS’s proposal did not meet the REA’s requirement to “produce or acquire renewable energy” to qualify for an incentive. The court agreed with the PRC’s interpretation of the REA, stating that the act of retiring RECs alone does nothing to further the statute’s objectives. The court also rejected SPS’s challenges to the PRC’s amendments to Rule 572, which governs the award of incentives under the REA. The court found that the amendments did not exceed the scope of the REA, were not arbitrary or capricious, and were not otherwise unreasonable or unlawful. View "S.W. Pub. Serv. Co. v. N.M. Pub. Regul. Comm'n" on Justia Law

by
This case involves a dispute over the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) implementation of the Clean Air Act’s Renewable Fuel Standards Program. The program requires the petroleum industry to introduce increasing volumes of renewable fuel into the nation's transportation fuel supply each year. However, Congress overestimated the speed at which domestic production of renewable fuel could expand, leading the EPA to reduce the statutorily required renewable fuel requirements annually.The case was brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by two sets of petitioners. The first set, the Biofuel Petitioners, produce cellulosic biofuels and argue that the EPA's standards are set too low. The second set, the Refiner Petitioners, are fossil fuel refiners and retailers subject to the volume requirements and contend that the standards are too high.The court held that the EPA complied with the law and reasonably exercised its discretion in setting the renewable fuel requirements for the years 2020, 2021, and 2022. The court therefore denied the petitions for review. The court found that the EPA had the statutory authority to impose a supplemental volume for 2022 to make up for volume that should have been satisfied in 2016. The court also concluded that the EPA's new formula for calculating the annual percentage standards was not arbitrary or capricious. View "Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company LLC v. EPA" on Justia Law

by
The City of Valdez in Alaska appealed two orders by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) related to the transfer of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) from BP Pipelines (Alaska) Inc. (BPPA) to Harvest Alaska, LLC. The first order (Order 6) approved confidential treatment of certain financial statements submitted by the oil company and its affiliates. The second order (Order 17) approved the transfer of a required certificate and the authority to operate the pipeline. The Superior Court dismissed Valdez’s appeals, concluding that Valdez lacked standing, failed to exhaust available administrative remedies, and the case was moot. The court also ordered Valdez to pay a portion of the attorney’s fees of the oil company and other companies involved in the proceedings.The Supreme Court of the State of Alaska reversed the dismissal of the appeal of Order 6, affirmed the dismissal of the appeal of Order 17, and vacated the award of attorney’s fees. The court found that Valdez had standing to appeal both orders, the appeals were not moot, and Valdez had exhausted administrative remedies with respect to Order 6 but not Order 17. The court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "City of Valdez v. Regulatory Commission of Alaska" on Justia Law

by
Phoenix Capital Group Holdings, LLC, an oil and gas mineral rights investment firm, acquired mineral interests on two sections of real property in Richland County, Montana. The previous owner, Katherine Solis, had been approached multiple times by Kraken Oil and Gas LLC, an energy production company, to secure a lease of the mineral interests or to participate in drilling wells. Solis consistently refused to engage with Kraken. After Phoenix acquired the mineral interests, it expressed a desire to participate in the oil and gas production from the wells being drilled by Kraken. However, Kraken responded that the mineral interests had been deemed “non-consent” due to Solis’s lack of participation, and it was authorized to recover risk penalties.The Board of Oil and Gas Conservation of the State of Montana held a hearing and determined that Kraken had made unsuccessful, good faith attempts to acquire voluntary pooling in the spacing unit, and that Phoenix, as a successor in interest, was bound to Solis’s decision not to participate. The Board therefore determined that the mineral interests owned by Phoenix would be subject to forced pooling and that Kraken could recover risk penalties from Phoenix. Phoenix requested a rehearing from the Board, but that request was denied. Phoenix then filed a Complaint seeking injunctive relief from the Board decision in the Thirteenth Judicial District Court, Yellowstone County. The District Court issued an Order granting Kraken and the Board’s motions for summary judgment, and dismissing Phoenix’s Complaint.In the Supreme Court of the State of Montana, Phoenix appealed the District Court's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision, holding that the Board correctly interpreted the statutory force-pooling requirements, and that its decision to force pool Phoenix’s mineral interests was reasonable. The court also held that Kraken’s letters to Solis constituted written demands that gave Solis the option to either participate or face assessment of risk penalties. The court concluded that risk penalties were imposed, not pursuant to the presumption in § 82-11-202(3), MCA (2021), but under § 82-11-202(2), MCA, which requires an owner pay risk penalties when “after written demand, [the owner] has failed or refused to pay the owner’s share of the costs of development or other operations . . . .” View "Phoenix Capital v. Board of Oil & Gas" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a challenge by the Sierra Club to the pre-construction permits issued by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) to Commonwealth LNG, LLC for its planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility. The Sierra Club argued that the facility’s emissions would exceed National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and that LDEQ failed to require Commonwealth to use the best available control technology (BACT) to limit those emissions.Before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, LDEQ argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, asserting that the claim arose under state law, not federal law. However, the court found that it had jurisdiction to review the petition because when LDEQ issued the permit, it was acting pursuant to federal law, not merely state law.On the merits, the court found that LDEQ did not act arbitrarily in its use of significant impact levels (SILs) to calculate which pollutants will have an insignificant effect on the NAAQS. The court also found that LDEQ did not act arbitrarily in its use of AP-42 emission factors to determine potential emissions from an LNG facility that has not yet been built. Furthermore, the court held that LDEQ did not violate its public trustee duty under Louisiana law, which requires LDEQ to evaluate and avoid adverse environmental impacts to the maximum extent possible.The court denied Sierra Club’s petition for review and affirmed LDEQ’s permitting decision. View "Sierra Club v. Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality" on Justia Law