Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
Devon Energy Production Co., L.P. v. Sheppard
The Supreme Court affirmed the summary judgment in favor of Landowners in this oil-and-gas dispute over how to calculate Landowners' royalty under the terms of a mineral lease with Producers, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.At issue in a declaratory judgment action was whether, based on language in the subject leases, Landowners' royalty was payable not only on gross proceeds but also on an unaffiliated buyer's post-sale postproduction costs if the producers' sales contracts stated that the sales price had been derived by deducting such costs from published index prices downstream from the point of sale. The trial court granted summary judgment for Landowners as to these types of marketing arrangements. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the broad language of the lease unambiguously contemplated such a royalty base. View "Devon Energy Production Co., L.P. v. Sheppard" on Justia Law
Preserve the Sandhills v. Cherry County
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing, for lack of jurisdiction, this matter opposing the grant of a conditional use permit (CUP) to construct a commercial wind turbine, holding that the district court never acquired jurisdiction over this CUP appeal.The Cherry County Board of Commissioners granted the CUP to BSH Kilgore, LLC for it to construct and operate commercial grade wind turbines near Kilgore, Nebraska. Plaintiffs, parties who opposed the project, appealed the decision to the district court and later were allowed to amend their complaint to challenge the CUP pursuant to a petition in error. The district court dismissed the amended complaint for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the jurisdictional requirements were not met in this case. View "Preserve the Sandhills v. Cherry County" on Justia Law
Nevin, et al. v. Kennedy, et al.
Angus Kennedy owned real property and mineral interests in McKenzie County, North Dakota. In 1960, Angus and his wife, Lois, executed two deeds conveying the surface and “excepting and reserving unto the parties of the first part, their heirs, successors or assigns, all right, title and interest in and to any and all . . . minerals in or under the foregoing described lands.” Lois did not own an interest in the property when Angus and Lois Kennedy executed the deeds. Angus died in 1965, and Lois died in 1980. Angus and Lois did not have children together. Angus had six children from a previous marriage. Angus' heirs executed numerous mineral leases for the property. Lois had one child, Julia Nevin, who died in 1989. In 2016 and 2017, Julia Nevin’s surviving husband, Stanley Nevin, executed mineral leases with Northern Oil and Gas, Inc. In 2018, Stanley sued the successors in interest to Angus, alleging Lois owned half of the minerals reserved in the 1960 deeds. In response, the Angus heirs claimed Angus did not intend to reserve any minerals to Lois because she did not own an interest in the property conveyed in the 1960 deeds. The district court granted Northern Oil’s motion to intervene. Northern Oil appeals the quiet title judgment deciding Northern Oil did not own mineral interests in the McKenzie County property, arguing the district court erred in concluding the deeds at issue were ambiguous as to whether Angus intended to reserve minerals to his wife, Lois. Finding no reversible error in the trial court judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Nevin, et al. v. Kennedy, et al." on Justia Law
Van Dyke v. Navigator Group
In this "double-fraction" dilemma arising from antique mineral conveyances in which the parties used two fractions, the Supreme Court held that the meaning of a 1924 deed's mineral reservation of "one-half of one-eighth" equalled one-half of the mineral estate.The parties in this case were the parties who derived from the grantees (White parties) and the parties whose interests derived from the grantors (Mulkey parties). The ownership of certain royalties turned on which side correctly interpreted the 1924 deed's mineral reservation of "one-half of one-eighth." The trial court entered an order granting the White parties' motion for partial summary judgment on the construction of the deed, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the lower courts erred in holding that the Mulkey parties did not have a one-half interest in the minerals because (1) the presumption that "1/8" was used as a term of art to refer to the "mineral estate" was not rebutted in this case; and (2) alternatively, the presumed-grant doctrine would confirm that the Mulkey parties had title to one-half of the mineral estate. View "Van Dyke v. Navigator Group" on Justia Law
Tres C, LLC v. Raker Resources
Plaintiff-respondent Tres C, LLC was an Oklahoma limited liability company whose members were Viola "Tincy" Cowan, her son David Cowan, her daughter Karlea Cowan Ewald, her grandson Scot Meier, and her granddaughter Marsha Bukowski. Tres C was a successor-in-interest to certain mineral interests a the 320-acre lot in Blaine County, Oklahoma, that were formerly owned by the parents of Tincy's late husband, George and Coral Cowan. In February 1955, George and Carol Cowan executed an oil and gas lease in favor of J.J. Wright (hereinafter "the Lessee") concerning those mineral interests. Under its habendum clause, the Cowan Lease would remain valid for a primary term lasting 10 years and then--so long as a producing well was drilled--for a secondary term lasting "as long thereafter as oil, gas, casinghead gas, casinghead gasoline, or any of the products covered by this lease is or can be produced." Defendants-petitioners were the Lessee's current successors-in-interest under the Cowan Lease. This appeal concerned the trial court's judgment that granted Plaintiff's petition to cancel defendant's oil and gas lease and to quiet title in its favor so that a third party could exercise the option of executing a new lease. The Court of Civil Appeals conditionally affirmed the trial court's judgment, but remanded the matter with instructions to address the noncontractual defense of obstructions, set forth in Jones v. Moore, 338 P.2d 872. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to address whether the trial court erred in applying a rule of law that analyzed only a 3-month window of time for assessing whether a dip in the existing well's production was a cessation of production in paying quantities such that defendants' lease expired by its own terms. On de novo review, the Court found the trial court did err insofar as it relied upon the lease's cessation-of-production clause to define the time period for assessing profitability. The Court vacated the Court of Civil Appeals' opinion, reversed the trial court's judgment, quieted title in favor of Defendants, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Tres C, LLC v. Raker Resources" on Justia Law
Timothy Brown v. Continental Resources, Inc.
Continental Resources, Inc. operates an input well on Timothy and Tracy Browns’ land in Harding County, South Dakota. The Browns sued Continental, seeking compensation for damage to the surface of their land and Continental’s use of their pore space. Continental removed the case to federal court and twice moved for partial summary judgment. The district court granted both motions, finding that Plaintiffs: (1) released Continental from liability for surface damage; and (2) could not recover damages under South Dakota law for Continental’s pore space use. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that section 45-5A-4 clearly articulates three categories of compensable harm. Plaintiffs sought damages for lost use, which is not one of the categories. They try to infuse ambiguity into the statutory scheme by pointing to Chapter 45-5A’s purpose and legislative findings sections. While these sections may help a court interpret ambiguous statutory language, the court found none in Section 45-5A-4. Accordingly, the court held that Plaintiffs have not suffered compensable harm under South Dakota law, so the district court did not err in granting summary judgment. View "Timothy Brown v. Continental Resources, Inc." on Justia Law
PEM Entities LLC v. County of Franklin
A real estate development company PEM Entities LLC (PEM), asserts a North Carolina county violated the Federal Constitution and state law by imposing new rules for getting water and sewage services. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding the company lacked standing to bring its takings and due process claims, its equal protection claim was too insubstantial to raise a federal question, and the court should not exercise jurisdiction over the state law claims once the federal claims were dismissed. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that without a constitutionally protected property interest, PEM’s takings and due process claims fail as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of PEM’s takings and due process claims because they fail to state a claim on which relief can be granted. Further, the court concluded the district court was right to dismiss PEM’s equal protection claim but should have done so for failure to state a claim rather than lack of jurisdiction. Thu, having concluded the district court correctly dismissed all of PEM’s federal claims, the court saw no abuse of discretion in the district court’s decision not to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. View "PEM Entities LLC v. County of Franklin" on Justia Law
Ohio Public Works Commission v. Village of Barnesville
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that use and development and alienation restrictions in a deed applied to both the surface and subsurface of the properties at issue in this case and that the village of Barnesville violated the restrictions when it transferred oil and gas rights to another entity without obtaining written permission from Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC), holding that there was no error.The village received two grants to finance the purchase of two properties for conservation projects. The OPWC brought this action claiming that the village violated transfer and use restrictions in the deeds for the properties at issue by transferring oil and gas rights to another entity, which leased those rights to Gulfport Energy Corporation, without obtaining the OPWC's permission. The court of appeals granted judgment in favor of OPWC. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals correctly determined that the village violated the use and development restrictions when it transferred oil and gas rights without OPWC's written consent. View "Ohio Public Works Commission v. Village of Barnesville" on Justia Law
Dominek, et al. v. Equinor Energy, et al.
The federal district court for the District of North Dakota certified five questions regarding N.D.C.C. § 38-08-08(1) and North Dakota Industrial Commission pooling orders. The litigation before the federal court involved allocation of mineral royalties in the case of overlapping oil and gas spacing units. Allen and Arlen Dominek owned oil and gas interests in Williams County, North Dakota. In 2011, the North Dakota Industrial Commission pooled the interests in Section 13 on the Dominek property with the interests in Section 24 in a 1280-acre spacing unit (the “Underlying Spacing Unit”). In 2016, the Commission pooled the interests in Sections 11, 12, 13, and 14 in a 2560-acre spacing unit (the “Overlapping Spacing Unit). The "Weisz" well terminated in the southeast corner of Section 14. The Defendants (together “Equinor”) operated the Weisz well. The Domineks sued Equinor in federal district court to recover revenue proceeds from the Weisz well. The parties agreed production from the Weisz well should have been allocated equally to the four sections comprising the Overlapping Spacing Unit. Their disagreement was whether the 25% attributable to Section 13 should have been shared with the interest owners in Section 24 given those sections were pooled in the Underlying Spacing Unit. In response to the motions, the federal district court certified five questions to the North Dakota Court. Responding "no" to the first: whether language from N.D.C.C. § 38-08-08(1) required production from Section 13 to be allocated to Section 24, the Supreme Court declined to answer the remaining questions because it found they were based on an assumption that the Commission had jurisdiction to direct how production was allocated among mineral interest owners. "Questions concerning correlative rights and the Commission’s jurisdiction entail factual considerations. ... An undeveloped record exposes this Court 'to the danger of improvidently deciding issues and of not sufficiently contemplating ramifications of the opinion.'” View "Dominek, et al. v. Equinor Energy, et al." on Justia Law
Bluegrass Materials Co., LLC v. Freeman
The 1985 “Manning Lease” granted the lessee rights to oil and gas on an approximately 100-acre tract of land in Bowling Green that is adjacent to a quarry. There is a long-expired one-year term, followed by a second term that conditions the maintenance of the leasehold interest on the production of oil or gas by the lessee. Bluegrass now owns the property. Believing that lessees were producing an insufficient quantity of oil to justify maintaining the lease, Bluegrass purported to terminate the lease and sought a declaration that the lease had terminated by its own terms while asserting several other related claims.The district court found that Bluegrass’s termination of the lease was improper and granted the lessees summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded. There is a factual dispute regarding whether the lease terminated by its own terms. The trier of fact must determine if the lessee has produced oil in paying quantities after considering all the evidence. There is a material factual dispute about whether the lessee ceased producing oil for a period of time, and, if so, whether that period of time was unreasonable. View "Bluegrass Materials Co., LLC v. Freeman" on Justia Law