Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
Garaas v. Petro-Hunt
In this case, Jonathan Garaas and David Garaas, serving as co-trustees of multiple family trusts, appealed a dismissal of their complaint against Petro-Hunt, L.L.C., an oil company operating on land in which the trusts own mineral interests. The trusts claimed that Petro-Hunt had decreased their royalty interest without proper basis and sought both a declaratory judgment affirming their higher royalty interest and damages for underpayment. The district court dismissed the complaint without prejudice, stating that the trusts had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies before the North Dakota Industrial Commission.The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision, stating that the trusts needed to exhaust their administrative remedies before bringing their claims to the court. The court reasoned that the issues raised by the trusts involved factual matters related to the correlative rights of landowners within the drilling unit, which fall within the jurisdiction of the Industrial Commission. The court held that the commission should first consider these issues, make findings of fact, and develop a complete record before the case proceeds to the district court. It further noted that, after exhausting their administrative remedies, the trusts could then bring an appropriate action for declaratory relief or damages in district court. View "Garaas v. Petro-Hunt" on Justia Law
Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. v MUFG Union Bank, N.A.
In 2016, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), offered a bond swap whereby its noteholders could exchange unsecured notes due in 2017 for new, secured notes due in 2020. PDVSA defaulted in 2019, and the National Assembly of Venezuela passed a resolution declaring the bond swap a "national public contract" requiring its approval under Article 150 of the Venezuelan Constitution. PDVSA, along with its subsidiaries PDVSA Petróleo S.A. and PDV Holding, Inc., initiated a lawsuit seeking a judgment declaring the 2020 Notes and their governing documents "invalid, illegal, null, and void ab initio, and thus unenforceable." The case was taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which certified three questions to the New York Court of Appeals.The New York Court of Appeals, in answering the first question, ruled that Venezuelan law governs the validity of the notes under Uniform Commercial Code § 8-110 (a) (1), which encompasses plaintiffs' arguments concerning whether the issuance of the notes was duly authorized by the Venezuelan National Assembly under the Venezuelan Constitution. However, New York law governs the transaction in all other respects, including the consequences if a security was "issued with a defect going to its validity." Given the court's answer to the first certified question, it did not answer the remaining questions. View "Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. v MUFG Union Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Public Citizen, Inc. v. FERC
In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was asked to review a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regarding the regulatory jurisdiction over a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Port St. Joe, Florida. The facility was being planned by Nopetro LNG, LLC, which sought a ruling from the FERC that the facility fell outside of its regulatory jurisdiction under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act. FERC agreed, issuing a declaratory order to this effect, which it upheld on rehearing. Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, sought review of the FERC's decision.However, before the appeal was heard, the FERC informed the court that Nopetro had abandoned its plans to build the facility due to market conditions. In light of this, the court found that the case was moot and dismissed Public Citizen's petition for review. The court also vacated the FERC's orders, stating that since the appeal was moot, it would exercise its equitable authority to vacate the orders at issue. The court noted that no party argued against vacatur and it would further the public interest by precluding any potential reliance on the challenged orders the court lacked authority to review. View "Public Citizen, Inc. v. FERC" on Justia Law
GREAT NORTHERN PROPERTIES, L.P. v. US
The plaintiff, Great Northern Properties, L.P. ("GNP"), filed a lawsuit against the United States, alleging a Fifth Amendment taking of its coal leases on the Otter Creek property in Montana. GNP claimed that the federal government, through the Montana state regulatory authority, denied the necessary permits for coal mining. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the Court of Federal Claims, which dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that GNP could not establish that Montana's actions were coerced by the federal government or that Montana acted as an agent of the federal government. The court also noted that the federal government did not dictate the outcome in individual permitting cases and that state law governed the permitting process. Therefore, the federal government was not responsible for the permit denial, as Montana was not coerced to enact its own regulatory program following the passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. Furthermore, the court rejected GNP's claim that the existence of federal standards created an agency relationship between the federal government and Montana. View "GREAT NORTHERN PROPERTIES, L.P. v. US " on Justia Law
PJM Power Providers Group v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied petitions from energy generators and state utility commissions challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) acceptance of a tariff filed by PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. The court held that FERC's constructive acceptance of the tariff was neither arbitrary nor capricious and was supported by substantial evidence in the record. The tariff, filed under Section 205 of the Federal Power Act (FPA), sought to change the Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR) used in interstate capacity auctions. The MOPR is designed to prevent the exercise of monopsony power by net buyers in the market. The new tariff would mitigate offers only where a capacity resource has the ability and incentive to exercise buyer-side market power or where a capacity resource receives state subsidies under a state program that is likely preempted by the FPA. The petitioners argued that the tariff was unjust, unreasonable, and discriminatory. They also argued that the FERC failed to adequately address potential reliance interests and unlawfully discriminates against competitive power suppliers. The court rejected these claims and upheld FERC's acceptance of the tariff. View "PJM Power Providers Group v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law
Electric Power Supply Associat v. FERC
In a consolidated action before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, several parties, including PJM Power Providers Group, Electric Power Supply Association, and Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, challenged a tariff filed by PJM Interconnection, L.L.C., concerning energy resources subject to price mitigation in interstate capacity auctions. The revised tariff, which took effect by operation of law in 2021, was the outcome of a deadlock between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) commissioners. The court found that the deadlock was to be treated as an affirmative order by the FERC, allowing for judicial review under Section 205(g) of the Federal Power Act (FPA). The court held that it was required to review the FERC order under the same deferential standards set forth in the FPA and the Administrative Procedure Act. The court’s review included the entire record, including the deadlock commissioners' written statements explaining their reasoning. Upon review, the court denied all three petitions, holding that FERC’s acceptance of PJM’s tariff was neither arbitrary nor capricious and was supported by substantial evidence in the record. View "Electric Power Supply Associat v. FERC" on Justia Law
Pennsylvania Public Utility Co v. FERC
In this consolidated action, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reviewed a case concerning the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) acceptance of a tariff filed by PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (PJM), which took effect by operation of law in 2021. The tariff was at the center of a dispute over whether state-subsidized energy resources should be subject to price mitigation in interstate capacity auctions. Petitioners – the PJM Power Providers Group (P3), the Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA), and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (State Entities) – sought review under Section 205(g) of the Federal Power Act (FPA), a provision allowing for review of FERC's action by inaction. The court held that its review of FERC action, whether actual or constructive, proceeds under the same deferential standards set forth in the FPA and Administrative Procedure Act. The court further held that its review properly encompasses the Commissioners’ statements setting forth their reasons for approving or denying the tariff filing. After reviewing the petitions, the court denied all three, finding FERC’s acceptance of PJM’s tariff was neither arbitrary nor capricious and was supported by substantial evidence in the record. View "Pennsylvania Public Utility Co v. FERC" on Justia Law
Center for Biological Diversity v. Public Utilities Com.
In this case, the Court of Appeal of the State of California First Appellate District reviewed a decision by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to adopt a new net energy metering (NEM) tariff. The PUC was required by the Legislature to create a successor tariff to the existing NEM scheme, which utilities argued overcompensated owners of renewable energy systems for their exported energy, raising electricity costs for customers without such systems.The petitioners, Center for Biological Diversity, Inc., Environmental Working Group, and The Protect our Communities Foundation, contended that the successor tariff did not comply with various requirements of section 2827.1 of the Public Utilities Code. The petitioners argued that the tariff failed to consider the social benefits of customer-generated power, improperly favored the interests of utility customers who did not own renewable systems, failed to promote sustainable growth of renewable energy, and neglected alternatives to promote the growth of renewable systems among customers in disadvantaged communities.The court affirmed the PUC's decision. It held that the PUC had appropriately balanced the various objectives set out by the Legislature in section 2827.1. The court found that the successor tariff was designed to reduce the financial advantage previously given to owners of renewable energy systems under the NEM tariff, which the court said was consistent with the Legislature's aim of balancing costs and benefits to all customers. The court also noted that the PUC had adopted programs to make renewable energy systems more accessible to low-income customers, satisfying the requirement to ensure growth among residential customers in disadvantaged communities.Lastly, the court concluded that the PUC's decision to apply the same tariff to both residential and nonresidential customers was justified, as the nonresidential NEM 2.0 tariff, while cost-effective for the electrical system as a whole, did not balance costs and benefits among all customers. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Public Utilities Com." on Justia Law
In re Petition of Vermont Gas Systems, Inc.
In this case, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Vermont Public Utility Commission approving a contract under 30 V.S.A. § 248(i) for the purchase of out-of-state renewable natural gas by Vermont Gas Systems, Inc. (VGS). The contract, which was proposed to last for fourteen-and-a-half years, required VGS to purchase a minimum volume of renewable natural gas that would be produced and transported from a landfill in New York. The contract was part of VGS's efforts to invest in nonfossil gas and incorporate renewable natural gas into its gas supply to meet regulatory requirements and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.The appellant, Catherine Bock, a ratepaying customer of VGS, challenged the Commission's findings with respect to the contract’s contribution towards satisfying emissions reductions under the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act of 2020. Bock also disputed the Commission’s finding that the contract, with a condition imposed by the Commission, would comply with least-cost planning principles.The court rejected Bock's arguments, finding that the Commission's conclusions were supported by the evidence in the record and were not clearly erroneous. The court noted that the contract was only one of VGS's strategies to reduce emissions pursuant to the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act of 2020. It also pointed out that there was sufficient evidence to support the Commission's determination that the contract was cost-effective and consistent with least-cost planning principles. View "In re Petition of Vermont Gas Systems, Inc." on Justia Law
East Texas Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
In the case between East Texas Electric Cooperative, Inc., and others, against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and American Electric Power Service Corporation (AEP), the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reviewed FERC's decision regarding AEP's calculation of its 2019 transmission rates. The petitioners, customers of AEP, challenged the calculation, but FERC rejected their claims. The petitioners then sought a review of the agency's decision.The court stated that FERC had correctly interpreted AEP's tariff terms and did not act arbitrarily or capriciously. FERC's ruling was upheld on several points, including the denial of retroactive relief for alleged errors in previous rate years, the inclusion of certain coal-related costs in the 2019 rate, the classification of certain tax credits as prepayments for tax liabilities, and the classification of employee pension and benefit costs as non-contingent liabilities. Therefore, the court denied the petition for review. View "East Texas Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law