Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Landlord - Tenant
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Nearly 20 years after defendants built, sold, and leased back a Rockport Indiana coal-burning power plant, they committed, in a consent decree resolving lawsuits involving alleged Clean Air Act violations at their other power plants, to either make over a billion dollars of emission control improvements to the plant, or shut it down. The sale and leaseback arrangement was a means of financing construction. Defendants then obtained a modification to the consent decree providing that these improvements need not be made until after their lease expired, pushing their commitments to improve the air quality of the plant’s emissions to the plaintiff, the investors who had financed construction and who would own the plant after the 33-year lease term. The district court held this encumbrance did not violate the parties’ contracts governing the sale and leaseback, and that plaintiff’s breach of contract claims precluded it from maintaining an alternative cause of action for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that a Permitted Lien exception in the lease unambiguously supports the plaintiff’s position and that the defendants’ actions “materially adversely affected’ plaintiff’s interests. View "Wilmington Trust Co. v. AEP Generating Co." on Justia Law

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Gas producers that lease land from Alaska must pay royalties calculated on the value of the gas produced from the leased area. The royalty may be calculated in one of two methods: the “higher of” pricing or contract pricing. “Higher of” pricing is the default method of calculating royalties and is calculated using market data and the prices of other producers. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) usually does not calculate the royalty payments under “higher of” pricing until years after production. Under contract pricing, the lessee’s price at which it sells gas is used to determine the royalty payment. Appellant Marathon Oil requested contract pricing from 2008 onward and sought retroactive application of contract pricing for 2003-2008. The DNR approved contract pricing from 2008 onward but denied the retroactive application. The superior court affirmed the DNR’s decision. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Marathon argued that the statute that governs contract pricing permitted retroactive application of contract pricing. Upon review of the arguments and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court concluded that though the statute was ambiguous, it would defer to the DNR’s interpretation. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the superior court’s decision to uphold the DNR’s order.