Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order invaliding the arbitration provision at issue in this case involving an oil and gas lease and remanded with directions that the case be dismissed and referred to arbitration. Petitioner and Respondents were parties to an oil and gas lease that included an arbitration provision. Respondents sued Petitioner, seeking to recover payments to which they claimed to be entitled under the lease and various other damages. Petitioner filed a motion to compel arbitration, relying on the arbitration provision in the lease. The circuit court denied Petitioner’s motion to compel arbitration, finding ambiguity in the lease’s arbitration provision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in going outside of the provisions in the arbitration clause to find language to create an ambiguity; and (2) the arbitration provision was not ambiguous and therefore should be enforced. View "SWN Production Co. v. Long" on Justia Law

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The 1977 deed at issue in this case was ambiguous and of such doubtful meaning that reasonable minds disagreed as to the deed’s intent, and therefore, the circuit court erred in finding the deed was clear and in finding that the grantors did not convey one-half interest in oil and gas beneath a tract of land in Marshall County to the grantee. In 2013, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendants asserting that, in the 1977 deed, Plaintiffs retained ownership of the one-half undivided interest in the oil and gas and, therefore, Defendants trespassed on their oil and gas interest and engaged in conversion. Plaintiffs then amended the complaint to request a declaratory judgment interpreting the 1977 deed. The circuit court determined that the deed was clear and unambiguous and declared that Plaintiffs kept for themselves the one-half interest in the oil and gas. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in finding that the 1977 deed was unambiguous and in granting a declaratory judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. View "Gastar Exploration Inc. v. Rine" on Justia Law

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Where a lessee designates tracts of land for pooling regarding horizontal drilling and production of oil and gas from the Marcellus Shale Formation, which includes nonparticipating royalty interests (NPRI), consent or ratification by the holders of the nonparticipating royalty interests is not required where the holders of the NPRIs have conveyed the oil and gas in place and the executive leasing rights thereto to the lessor. At issue was a voluntary pooling and unionization lease provision regarding horizontal drilling and production of oil and gas from the Marcellus Shale Formation. PPG Industries, Inc., the lessor, and Gastar Exploration USA, Inc., the lessee, signed a lease under which 700 acres were designated by Gastar as the Wayne/Lily Unit for purposes of pooling the oil and gas interests held by various individuals and entities. PPG and Gastar challenged the circuit court’s entry of partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, who collectively held a nonparticipating royalty interest in the oil and gas underlying a parcel included within the Wayne/Lily Unit. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in ruling that the validity of the pooling provision in the PPG-Gastar lease and the designated Wayne/Lily Unit were void until such time as pooling was consented to and ratified by Plaintiffs. View "Gastar Exploration Inc. v. Contraguerro" on Justia Law

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Both the legislative intent and language utilized in W. Va. Code 22-6-8 permits allocation or deduction of reasonable post-production expenses actually incurred by the lessee of an oil and/or gas lease and, more specifically, permits use of the “net-back” or “work-back” method of royalty calculation. Here the Supreme Court answered certified questions presented by the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia regarding whether the Supreme Court’s decision in Tawney v. Columbia Natural Resources, LLC, 633 S.E.2d 22 (2006), has any effect upon whether a lessee subject to section 22-6-8 may deduct post-production expenses from the lessor’s royalty. Upon rehearing, the court concluded that royalty payments pursuant to an oil or gas lease governed by the statute may be subject to pro-rata deduction or allocation of all reasonable post-production expenses incurred by the lessee, and therefore, an oil or gas lessee may utilize the “net-back” or “work-back” method to calculate royalties owed to a lessor pursuant to a lease governed by section 22-6-8(e). View "Leggett v. EQT Production Co." on Justia Law

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DWG Oil & Gas Acquisitions, LLC (DWG) contended that it was the current owner of the oil and gas underlying a parcel of land in Marshall County. The circuit court determined that the oil and gas underlying the parcel was conveyed by a 1913 deed to A.B. Campbell, a predecessor in title of Southern County Farms, Inc., Harlan and Barbara Kittle, and Lori Carpenter (collectively, Defendants). Consequently, title to the oil and gas was vested in Defendants rather than DWG. DWG appealed, arguing that it was the current owner of the oil and gas at issue by virtue of a competing chain of title arising from a 1908 deed executed by P. P. Campbell, Sr. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly applied the law and properly found that title to the oil and gas underlying the parcel of land is currently vested in Defendants. View "DWG Oil & Gas Acquistions, LLC v. Southern Country Farms" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued EQT Production Company and five related entities alleging that Plaintiffs were underpaid royalties with respect to their ownership of oil and gas interests that EQT was contracted to exploit. A federal district court granted summary judgment to the related entities and partial summary judgment EQT. The court reserved its ruling on the remaining aspects of Plaintiff’s claims against EQT pending the disposition of questions certified to the Supreme Court relevant to the claims’ resolution. The Supreme Court declined to answer the second certified question and answered the first certified question as follows: When the lessee-owner of a working interest in an oil or gas well must tender to the lessor-owner of the oil or gas a royalty not less than one-eighth of the total amount paid to or received by or allowed to the lessee, W. Va. Code 22-6-8(e) requires in addition that the lessee not deduct from that amount any expenses that have been incurred in gathering, transporting, or treating the oil or gas after it has been initially extracted any sums attributable to a loss or beneficial use of volume beyond that initially measured or any other costs that may be characterized as post-production. View "Leggett v. EQT Production Co." on Justia Law

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This proceeding consisted of four consolidated appeals. The issue in two of the appeals was whether the alternative-energy infrastructures installed by Petitioners for their businesses met the statutory definition of “qualified alternative fuel vehicle refueling infrastructure” for the purpose of receiving an alternative-fuel infrastructure tax credit. The issue in the other two appeals was whether the alternative-energy infrastructures installed by Petitioners for their residences met the statutory definition of “qualified alternative fuel vehicle home refueling infrastructure” for the purpose of receiving an alternative fuel-infrastructure tax credit. The circuit court affirmed the final orders of the West Virginia Office of Tax Appeals that denied Petitioners’ requests for alternative-fuel infrastructure tax credits under W. Va. Code 11-6d-4(c). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in its judgment. View "Martin Distributing Co. v. Matkovich" on Justia Law

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Bryan and Doris McCurdy filed an action against Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (MVP) seeking a declaration that MVP had no right to enter their property to survey the area as a potential location for a natural gas transmission pipeline MVP planned to construct. The McCurdys further sought both a preliminary and a permanent injunction prohibiting MVP from entering their property. The circuit court granted declaratory judgment to the McCurdys and also granted the McCurdys a preliminary and a permanent injunction prohibiting MVP from entering their property. The circuit court based its decision on its finding that MVP’s pipeline is not being constructed for a public use in West Virginia. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding (1) MVP could enter the MCurdys’ land to survey the land only if the MVP pipeline was for a public use, and (2) the MVP pipeline was not being constructed for a public use in West Virginia. View "Mountain Valley Pipeline v. McCurdy" on Justia Law

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At dispute in this case was ownership of coalbed methane (CBM) under a 1938 deed. Respondent filed a complaint against Petitioners seeking a declaration of ownership of all CBM on the property conveyed in the deed and an accounting of royalties from Petitioners. Petitioners filed counterclaims and cross claims also seeking a declaration of ownership and an accounting of royalties. The dispositive issue for determination at trial was whether CBM was considered “gas” for purposes of Petitioners’ “oil and gas” reservation in the deed. The circuit court granted judgment in favor of Respondent, concluding that, based on the totality of the circumstances, the predecessors of Petitioners did not intend the reservation in the 1938 deed to include an interest in the CBM. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the reservation in the 1938 deed did not include CBM due to the general opinion at the time that CBM was a hazard and a nuisance. View "Poulos v. LBR Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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The complex issues at issue in these three consolidated appeals revolved around four overlapping leases to extract oil and gas from land owned by Plaintiff. Each lease contained an arbitration clause. Plaintiff filed the instant case against Defendants seeking a declaration as to which lease was controlling as to which defendants and seeking damages from Defendants. The circuit court entered an order voiding two of the four leases, addressing the substantive terms of two other leases, and compelling the parties to arbitrate any remaining claims by Plaintiff. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) properly found the arbitration clause in one lease to be unenforceable and correctly ruled that the entire lease was unenforceable; (2) erred in compelling certain defendants to participate in arbitration under the terms of a second lease but did not err when it made findings of fact and conclusions of law that addressed the substance of Plaintiff’s claims regarding that lease; (3) erred in voiding a third lease, and its included arbitration clause, in violation the doctrine of severability; and (4) erred in its substantive rulings interpreting a fourth lease, as the court should have referred questions about the lease to arbitration. View "Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC v. Hickman" on Justia Law