Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation (“PEDF”) challenged for the third time, the use of proceeds from oil and gas leasing on the Commonwealth’s forest and park lands as violative of Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, also known as the Environmental Rights Amendment. (“Section 27” or “ERA”). In previous trips before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, PEDF challenged several 2009-2025 budgetary provisions enacted challenging the use of proceeds from oil and gas leasing on the Commonwealth’s forest and park lands as violative of Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, also known as the Environmental Rights Amendment. (“Section 27” or “ERA”). In the first two cases, PEDF challenged several 2009-2015 budgetary provisions enacted in the wake of dramatic increases in oil and gas revenue resulting from Marcellus Shale exploration in Pennsylvania. Applying trust principles, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the budgetary provisions violated Section 27 by utilizing the oil and gas revenue for non-trust purposes via transfers to the General Fund. PEDF v. Commonwealth, 161 A.3d 911 (Pa. 2017) (“PEDF II”); PEDF v. Commonwealth, 255 A.3d 289 (Pa. 2021) (“PEDF V”). The underlying case here was one for a declaratory judgment, and named the Commonwealth and Governor as parties. Here, PEDF raised numerous constitutional challenges to provisions of the General Appropriations Act of 2017 and 2018, as well as the 2017 Fiscal Code amendments, all of which were enacted after the Supreme Court’s decision in PEDF II. After review , the Supreme Court affirmed the Commonwealth Court, whilst rejecting that court;s analysis derived from PEDF III. View "PA Enviro Defense Fdn, Aplt. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving the application of Crowned Ridge Wind, LLC for a permit to construct a wind energy farm in northeast South Dakota, holding that the PUC acted within its discretion in this case.After a contested hearing, the PUC issued a written decision approving the permit. Two individuals who lived in rural areas near the project and had intervened to oppose Crowned Ridge's application sought review. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) neither of the Intervenors' evidentiary claims were sustainable; and (2) even if the Intervenors' claims were preserved for appeal, the PUC acted within its discretion when it denied the Intervenors' challenges to certain testimony. View "Christenson v. Crowned Ridge Wind, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving the application of Crowned Ridge Wind II, LLC to construct a large wind energy farm in northeast South Dakota, holding that the PUC followed the applicable statutory directives in granting the construction permit and properly determined that Crowned Ridge satisfied its burden of proof under S.D. Codified Laws 49-41B-22.After a contested hearing, the PUC issued a written decision approving the permit. Two individuals who lived in rural areas near the project and had intervened to oppose Crowned Ridge's application sought review. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the PUC did not err when it determined that Crowned Ridge met its burden of proof to comply with all applicable laws and rules; and (2) the PUC's findings were not clearly erroneous as they related to crowned Ridge's burden under S.D. Codified Laws 49-41B-22(3). View "Christenson v. Crowned Ridge Wind, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from a judgment of the Seventh District Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court held that Ohio's Marketable Title Act (MTA), Ohio Rev. Code 5301.47 et seq., applied to an oil and gas interest that had been severed from its surface property.Senterra, Ltd., the owner of the surface property at issue in this case, sought to quiet title to the disputed one-quarter oil and gas interest in its favor, urging the Court to apply the deed-interpretation rule of equity set forth in Duhig v. Peavy-Moore Lumber Co., 144 S.W.2d 878 (Tex. 1940) (the Duhig rule). The heirs to the oil and gas interest argued, in response, that the Duhig rule was inapplicable and that the MTA applied and gave them marketable record title to the interest. The trial court granted summary judgment to Senterra. The Seventh District reversed, ruling that the Duhig rule was inapplicable and that the MTA applied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the oil and gas interest retained by the heirs was not subject to the Duhig rule; and (2) the heirs' interest was preserved under the MTA. View "Senterra, Ltd. v. Winland" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered certified questions seeking to clarify whether, in payment of royalties under an oil and gas lease, the lessor may be required to bear a portion of the post-production costs incurred in rendering the oil and gas marketable.Specifically, the district court asked whether Estate of Tawyne v. Columbia Natural Resources, LLC, 633 S.E.2d 22 (W. Va. 2006) is still good law in West Virginia and then asked the Supreme Court to expound upon its holding in Tawney. The Supreme Court answered (1) Tawney is still good law; and (2) this Court defines to answer the reformulated question of what level of specificity Tawney requires of an oil and gas lease to permit the deduction of post-production costs from a lessor's royalty payments. View "SWN Production Co., LLC v. Kellam" on Justia Law

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Vermilion Parish School Board (“VPSB”) filed suit in 2004, alleging oil and gas operations conducted pursuant to a 1935 mineral lease and a 1994 surface lease damaged Section 16 land. VPSB asserted causes of action for negligence, strict liability, unjust enrichment, trespass, breach of contract, and violations of Louisiana environmental laws. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted rehearing to reconsider its prior decision in Louisiana v. Louisiana Land and Exploration Co., 20-00685 (La. 6/30/21), _So.3d_. The case presented two main issues: (1) the proper interpretation of Act 312 relative to the award of damages for the evaluation or remediation of environmental damage; and (2) whether the strict liability tort claim prescribed. With the benefit of additional oral argument and briefing, the Court affirmed its original decree. View "Louisiana, et al. v. Louisiana Land & Exploration Co., et al." on Justia Law

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In this climate-change case, the First Circuit once more affirmed the order of the federal district court allowing Rhode Island's motion to return to state court its state court complaint against oil and gas companies for damages caused by fossil fuels, holding that Rhode Island's complaint did not give rise to federal removal jurisdiction.Rhode Island originally brought this complaint in state court, alleging state-law causes of action for, inter alia, public nuisance. After the energy companies removed the case to federal district court Rhode Island moved for the case to be remanded to state court. The district court granted the motion and ordered the case remanded to state court. The First Circuit affirmed the remand order. On certiorari, the Supreme Court instructed that the First Circuit give further consideration in light of recent caselaw. The First Circuit received supplemental briefs and then affirmed once more the judge's remand order, holding that removal based on federal-question jurisdiction and on other jurisdictional and removal statutes was not proper. View "State of Rhode Island v. Shell Oil Products Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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S Bar Ranch owned approximately 3000 acres of land in rural Elmore County, Idaho. S Bar purchased the land in 2015. There were very few structures on S Bar’s property, save for an airplane hangar that included a five-hundred square-foot apartment. S Bar’s address was listed in Sun Valley, Idaho, and its principal, Chris Stephens, used the property for recreational purposes. Cat Creek Energy, LLC, an Idaho company managed by John Faulkner, owned and managed more than 23,000 acres of land in Elmore County near Anderson Ranch reservoir. Faulkner, on behalf of his other companies, leased land to Cat Creek to develop the project at issue in this dispute. In late 2014 and early 2015, Cat Creek began the process of obtaining conditional use permits (“CUPs”) for a proposed alternative energy development (“the project”) in Elmore County. As initially proposed, the project had five components: a 50,000 acre-foot reservoir with hydroelectric turbines, up to 39 wind turbines, approximately 174,000 photovoltaic solar panels, electrical transmission lines, and an onsite power substation. Cat Creek sought to build the project on approximately 23,000 acres of land that it had leased near Anderson Ranch Reservoir. In 2019, the district court issued a Memorandum Decision and Order, affirming the Board’s decisions with respect to the CUPs. The district court found that S Bar only had standing to challenge the CUPs relating to wind turbines, electric transmission lines, and the on-site substation. The district court also reiterated its prior oral ruling that a 2017 CUP Order was a final agency action and that S Bar’s petition for judicial review of that order was untimely. With regard to the development agreement and a 2018 CUP Amendment, the district court concluded that the Board did not err in a manner specified by Idaho Code section 67-5279 and that S Bar had not shown that its substantial rights had been prejudiced. S Bar appealed, but finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed judgment in favor of Cat Creek. View "S Bar Ranch v. Elmore County" on Justia Law

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In this oil and gas case, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's summary judgment, holding that a fact issue remained on Plaintiffs' claim for breach of the lease and that Plaintiffs' argument was not barred by res judicata but that the court of appeals erred by reversing a take-nothing summary judgment as to Plaintiffs' tort and statutory claims.At issue was the meaning and application of an express covenant to protect against drainage that appeared in a lease addendum that expressly limited the location of wells that may trigger Defendant-Lessee's obligation to protect against drainage but did not directly address the location of wells that may cause drainage. Plaintiffs-Lessors argued that the covenant allowed for separate triggering and draining wells and that Defendant breached the covenant by failing to protect against drainage from a non-triggering well. In response, Defendant argued that it had a duty to protect only against drainage from the limited class of triggering wells. The Supreme Court held (1) the addendum was ambiguous because both interpretations of the covenant were reasonable; (2) the court of appeals improperly reversed the trial court's take-nothing summary judgment on Plaintiffs' tort and statutory claims; and (3) remand was required for further proceedings on Plaintiffs' claim for breach of the lease. View "Rosetta Resources Operating, LP v. Martin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's decisions in these two cases consolidated for appeal, holding that owners of the surface rights to land did not comply with the requirements of the Dormant Mineral Act, Ohio Rev. Code 5301.56, in seeking to have mineral interests in that land deemed abandoned.Plaintiffs filed complaints for declaratory judgment and seeking to quiet title, alleging that the surface owners had failed to exercise reasonable due diligence in attempting to locate holders of the mineral interests before commencing the abandonment process. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants in both cases. The court of appeals reversed in both cases, ruling that Defendants' searches were unreasonable and that they had failed to comply with the relevant notice requirements. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants failed to exercise reasonable diligence in these cases. View "Fonzi v. Brown" on Justia Law