Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court reversing the decision of the Town of Eliot's board of appeals vacating the planning board's approval of a large solar array project, holding that the project did not fit the definition of "public utility facility" within the meaning of the Town zoning ordinance.Odiorne Lane Solar, LLC applied to the Planning Board for a approval to build a large solar array project on land located in the Town's rural district. The Planning Board approved the application. The board of appeals, however, vacated the approval. The superior court vacated the board of appeals' decision. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court's judgment, holding that, at the relevant times for this application, the ordinance did not permit the location of the project within the rural district. View "Odiorne Lane Solar, LLC v. Town of Eliot" on Justia Law

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In this discretionary appeal brought by Discovery Oil and Gas, LLC to determine whether an express indemnification provision in its contract with Wildcat Drilling, LLC evinced a clear intent by the parties to abrogate the common-law notice requirements for indemnification set forth in Globe Indemnity Co. v. Schmitt, 53 N.E.2d 790 (Ohio 1944), the Supreme Court held that the requirements announced in Globe Indemnity did not apply.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) when the parties have entered into a contract containing an express indemnification provision, the common-law notice requirements set forth in Globe Indemnity do not apply, and the parties are bound by the terms of their contract because the provision evinces a clear intent by the parties to abrogate the common law; and (2) the language of the contract in this case evicted the parties' clear intent to abrogate the common-law notice requirements for indemnification. View "Wildcat Drilling, LLC v. Discovery Oil & Gas, LLC" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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