Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
Oil Valley Petroleum v. Moore
Plaintiff Oil Valley Petroleum, LLC and defendant Clay Moore (Moore) sought equitable relief to adjudicate title based upon two oil and gas leases. Plaintiff requested the trial court to quiet title, cancel an oil and gas lease, and declare its top-lease to be in force and effect. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The district court granted defendant's motion and denied plaintiff's motion. Plaintiff appealed and the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the district court and directed judgment for plaintiff. Defendant sought certiorari to review the Court of Civil Appeals' opinion. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held: (1) exhibits presented during summary judgment proceedings were insufficient to show a material fact that a well was commercially profitable for the purpose of the habendum clause of an oil and gas lease; (2) an overriding royalty interest may be extinguished by an extinguishment of the working interest from which it was carved by a lessee's surrender of the lease in substantial compliance with the lease, unless the surrender is the result of fraud or breach of a fiduciary relationship; and (3) prevailing party status for the purpose of an attorney fee is determined by the trial court when not determined on appeal. The opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals was vacated and the Court reversed the order granting Moore a partial summary judgment and remanded for additional proceedings. View "Oil Valley Petroleum v. Moore" on Justia Law
Thomson v. Hoffman
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court of appeals in this case involving the question of deed construction within the oil and gas context as to whether a royalty interest was fixed or floating, holding that further proceedings were required to evaluate this case in light of the framework articulated in Van Dyke v. Navigator Group, 668 S.W.3d 353 (Tex. 2023).The 1956 deed at issue expressly reserved an undivided 3/32's interest "(same being three-fourths (3/4's) of the usual one-eighth (1/8th) royalty)" in the oil, gas, and other minerals. The question before the Supreme Court was whether the reservation was a floating 3/4 interest of the royalty rather than a fixed 3/32 interest. The court of appeals concluded that the reservation was a floating 3/4 interest. Because the court of appeals' decision preceded Van Dyke, the Court's most recent double-fraction case, the Supreme Court granting the petition for review and vacated the lower court's decision, holding that this case must be remanded this case for further proceedings in light of Van Dyke. View "Thomson v. Hoffman" on Justia Law
In the Matter of the Denial of Contested Case Hearing Requests & Issuance of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
The Supreme Court held that an action taken by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in issuing a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System permit was arbitrary and capricious and that the permit did not comply with a Minnesota rule addressing wastewater discharges to groundwater, Minn. R. 7060.0600, subp. 2.At issue was the MPCA's issuance of the permit for a Poly Met Mining, Inc. project. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding that the MPCA failed properly to consider whether the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) applied to future discharges from Poly Met's facility to groundwater. The Supreme Court remanded the cause, holding (1) remand was required because there were suggestions that the MPCA did not properly consider whether the permit complies with the CWA and that the MPCA did not genuinely engage in reasoned decision-making; (2) remand was required for consideration of whether a variance was available to allow the planned discharge to the unsaturated zone within the containment system; and (3) the prohibition on injecting polluted water directly to the groundwater saturated zone for long-term storage did not apply in this case. View "In the Matter of the Denial of Contested Case Hearing Requests & Issuance of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System" on Justia Law
Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. County of Monterey
In this challenge to "Measure Z," a Monterey County ordinance, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeal affirming the judgment of the trial court in favor of Plaintiffs on preemption grounds, holding that Cal. Pub. Res. Code 3106 preempts Measure Z.Plaintiffs - Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and other oil producers and mineral rights holders - brought six actions against the County challenging Measure Z, a local ordinance banning oil and gas wastewater injection and impoundment and the drilling of new oil and gas wells in the County's unincorporated areas. The trial court issued a writ of mandate directing the County to invalidate two prohibitions in the measure that applied to the County's unincorporated areas. The court of appeal affirmed on grounds of state preemption. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Measure Z contradicts, and therefore conflicts with and is preempted by, section 3106. View "Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. County of Monterey" on Justia Law
Zavanna v. Gadeco, et al.
Defendants GADECO, LLC, and Continental Resources, Inc. appealed a judgment quieting title in oil and gas leasehold interests in Zavanna, LLC. Zavanna and the Defendants made competing claims to oil and gas leasehold interests covering 1,280 gross acres in Williams County, North Dakota. These interests were located in the Golden Unit; the Golden Well was the only well producing oil and gas from the subject leasehold within the Golden Unit. GADECO operated the Golden Well. Zavanna was the lessee by assignment of the “Top Leases” and GADECO and Continental were the lessees of the “Bottom Leases.” The Top Leases and Bottom Leases covered the same lands and leasehold interests. The Bottom Leases automatically terminated upon cessation of production unless certain express conditions were met. The Bottom Leases stated that a cessation of production after the lease’s primary term would not terminate the lease if the lessee restores production or commences additional drilling or reworking operations within 90 days (or 120 days in the case of the Parke Energy Leases) from the date of cessation of production. After a bench trial, the district court quieted title in Zavanna, concluding the Bottom Leases terminated by their own terms when production ceased and GADECO failed to timely commence drilling or reworking operations. The court found three periods of production cessation. The court concluded Defendants bore the burden to prove that production did not cease or reworking operations were timely commenced. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not err in concluding Defendants’ leases terminated under their terms when production ceased and Defendants failed to timely commence reworking operations, and in concluding Defendants failed to show a force majeure condition saved the leases from termination. View "Zavanna v. Gadeco, et al." on Justia Law
Green Development, LLC v. Town of Exeter
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of the Town of Exeter in this action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief challenging the Town's decision to amend its zoning ordinance, which prevented Plaintiff from developing three commercial solar-field projects in Exeter, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on its allegations of error.On appeal, Plaintiff challenged several aspects of the superior court's judgment denying Plaintiff's request to enjoin enforcement of an emergency moratorium ordinance preventing review of Plaintiff's solar-field projects and to declare that Plaintiff's solar-field projects were vested pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 45-24-44. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under this Court's understanding of the relevant law, the trial court properly entered judgment in favor of the Town. View "Green Development, LLC v. Town of Exeter" on Justia Law
In re Application of Firelands Wind, L.L.C.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Ohio Power Siting Board authorizing Firelands Wind, LLC to construct, operate, and maintain a wind farm in Huron and Erie Counties, holding that the nineteen nearby residents and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory that brought this appeal (collectively, Appellants) have not established that the Board's order was unlawful or unreasonable.On appeal, Appellants challenged the Board's determination that the wind farm satisfies the statutory requirements for constructing a major utility facility, asserting, among other things, that the project could kill birds and create excessive noise for residents near the wind farm and that the Board improperly failed to follow its administrative rules. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Board's order was neither unlawful nor unreasonable. View "In re Application of Firelands Wind, L.L.C." on Justia Law
Housatonic River Initiative v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The First Circuit denied Petitioners' petition objecting to a permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and affirmed by the Environmental Appeals Board requiring General Electric Company (GE) to clean up polychlorinated biphenyls from certain portions of the Housatonic River, holding that the EPA's challenged actions were not arbitrary or capricious.On appeal, Petitioners brought three substantive challenges and also brought procedural challenges to the permit's issuance. The First Circuit denied the petition after noting that should GE's cleanup of the river not achieve the goals set out in the permit, the permit requires further measures, holding that Petitioners were not entitled to relief on their procedural and substantive legal challenges. View "Housatonic River Initiative v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law
Apache Corp. v. Apollo Exploration, LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals in this case concerning whether Apache Corporation breached its purchase-and-sale agreements (PSAs) with Sellers, holding the court of appeals erred by failing to apply the default common-law rule of contractual construction to the parties' dispute and incorrectly construed other contractual provisions at issue.In the PSAs at issue, Sellers sold seventy-five percent of their working interests in 109 oil-and-gas leases to Apache. The trial court rendered final judgment for Apache on the grounds that Sellers had no evidence of damages and could not prevail on their claims. The court of appeals reversed in part. At issue was whether the default rule for treating contracts that use the words "from" or "after" a specified date to measure a length of time should be applied in this case. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals as to the issues that the parties presented for review, holding that the parties' agreement in this case implicated the default rule without displacing it. View "Apache Corp. v. Apollo Exploration, LLC" on Justia Law
Bay, et al. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore, et al.
Marvin and Mildred Bay (“the Bays”) challenged a court order dismissing their trespass claim against Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC and Anadarko Land Corporation (collectively, “Anadarko”). Anadarko, an oil and gas company, owned the mineral rights under the Bays’ farm. The Bays brought a putative class action along with other surface landowners against Anadarko, alleging that Anadarko’s mineral lessees had exceeded the scope of their mineral rights by drilling multiple vertical wells on the surface owners’ land when it was possible to drill fewer wells of the “directional” type. At the conclusion of the Bays’ presentation of evidence, the district court found that the Bays’ evidence failed as a matter of law to demonstrate that Anadarko’s activities amounted to a trespass and dismissed the case. Finding that the district court applied the wrong legal standard, the Tenth Circuit reversed the dismissal in "Bay I," finding that Colorado’s common law of trespass required the Bays to show that Anadarko’s lessees had “materially interfered” with the Bays’ farming operations. The appellate court questioned whether the record demonstrated that the Bays met this standard in their trial, but because Anadarko had not raised this specific issue, the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. On remand, the district court again granted judgment as a matter of law to Anadarko on the material interference issue. Specifically, the court first held that it was bound by the Tenth Circuit's interpretation in Bay I of the material interference standard, then found that the Bays showed only that Anadarko’s conduct inconvenienced them—which was insufficient to satisfy the material interference standard. The Bays again appealed, arguing that the Tenth Circuit's discussion of the material interference standard in Bay I was dictum; thus, the district court incorrectly determined that it was bound to apply that standard. They further argued the material interference standard applied by the district court was inconsistent with the Colorado standard for trespass outlined in Gerrity Oil & Gas Corp. v. Magness, 946 P.2d 913 (Colo. 1997), and that the evidence they presented in their trial established a prima facie case of material interference under Gerrity. The Tenth Circuit determined the district court did not err in its second dismissal and affirmed judgment. View "Bay, et al. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore, et al." on Justia Law