Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
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The Supreme Court held that the Texas Propane Gas Association (TPGA) demonstrated standing to bring its suit against the City of Houston for a declaratory judgment that the City's ordinances regulating the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry to include imposing criminal fines for violations were preempted by state law.The City brought two jurisdictional challenges to TPGA's suit: (1) the City argued that civil courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate TPGA's preemption claim because the local regulations it challenged carried criminal penalties; and (2) the City argued that TPGA could only challenge the City's LPG regulations that have injured at least one of its members. The trial court refused to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The court of appeals remanded the case to the trial court for TPGA to amend its pleadings, agreeing that TPGA could not challenge the City's regulations en masse. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) TPGA's claim was not a criminal law matter that must be raised in defense to prosecution; and (2) the City's argument, while framed as a challenge to TPGA's standing, was in fact a merits challenge, and TPGA demonstrated standing to bring the preemption claim it pleaded. View "Texas Propane Gas Ass'n v. City of Houston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that Petitioners (collectively, BPX) were not entitled to summary judgment on the issue of whether Margaret Strickhausen impliedly ratified an unauthorized pooling agreement, holding that BPX did not establish implied ratification as a matter of law.BPX was a lessee of Strickhausen's mineral interest. The lease required BPX to obtain Strickhausen's express written consent before pooling her tract with others. Strickhausen never gave express written consent to BPX, which meant that BPX could not pool "under any circumstances." Strickhausen sued BPX for breach of contract, among other claims, after BPX filed a certificate of pooling authority for a well on her tract. BPX filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Strickhausen impliedly ratified the pooling because she accepted royalty payments calculated on a pooled basis. The trial court granted an interlocutory summary judgment for BPX on Strickhausen's wrongful pooling, commingling, and failure to account claims. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment for BPX on the issue of implied ratification was improper. View "BPX Operating Co v. Strickhausen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals holding that limitations barred a mineral estate lessee's claims for injuries to its interests in one of its nine separate leases but did not bar the lessee's claims for injuries to its interests in the other eight leases, holding that the evidence did not conclusively establish that the first legal injury occurred outside the limitations period.At issue was when, for purposes of the statute of limitations, the lessee's claim that hydrogen sulfide an operator injected back into the earth migrated beneath the surface and injured the lessee's interest in the minerals underlying nearby properties accrued. The trial court concluded that the lessee's claims occurred at least two years before the lessee first filed them and were therefore untimely. The court of appeals reversed in part. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant did not establish a right to summary judgment based on limitations. View "Regency Field Services LLC v. Swift Energy Operating LLC" on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal concerning two jurisdictional challenges the City of Houston made to this suit brought by the Texas Propane Gas Association (TPGA) seeking a declaratory judgment that the City's ordinances regulating the liquefied petroleum gas industry to include imposing criminal fines for violations were preempted by state law, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not lack jurisdiction on either ground asserted by the City.In challenging the court's jurisdiction the City argued (1) civil courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate TPGA's preemption claim because the local regulations it challenges carry criminal penalties, and (2) TPGA could challenge only those regulations that had injuries at least one of its members. The trial court refused to dismiss the matter for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court held (1) TPGA's claim was not a criminal law matter that must be raised in defense to prosecution; and (2) TPGA's second argument, while framed as a challenge to TPGA's standing, was really a merits challenge, and TPGA demonstrated standing to bring its preemption claim. View "Texas Propane Gas Ass'n v. City of Houston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Defendants in this trespass to try title suit, holding that the trial court properly granted summary judgment for Defendants.Plaintiff and Defendants were lessees of adjacent mineral estates. Plaintiff brought this suit alleging that Defendants drilled several wells either on Plaintiff's leasehold or closer to the lease line that allowed by Railroad Commission rules. Defendants claimed that Plaintiff ratified the boundary line through a boundary stipulation between the fee owners of the two mineral estates and Plaintiff's written acceptance of the stipulation, thus foreclosing the trespass claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the boundary stipulation was void and therefore could not be ratified. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the boundary stipulation was valid; and (2) Defendants conclusively established their ratification defense. View "Concho Resources, Inc. v. Ellison" on Justia Law

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In this contract dispute involving the correct interpretation of a mineral lease's "continuous drilling program" provision the Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred in reversing partial summary judgment for the lessee on the contract-construction issue.Lessor and Lessee were the successors-in-interest to an oil-and-gas top lease covering a 30,450-acre parcel of land. At the end of the primary term, Lessee was required to reassign to Lessor all of Lessee's operating rights in each tract of the lease not then held by production unless Lessee was engaged in a "continuous drilling program." Notwithstanding Lessee's continued drilling operations, Lessor filed a suit seeking a declaration that the lease had terminated. The trial court granted partial summary judgment for Lessor, concluding that the lease had not terminated as to non-producing tracts. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) under the lease's special definition of drilling operations, activities other than spudding-in a well are sufficient to maintain the lease as to non-producing tracts; and (2) the record conclusively established that Lessee was engaged in a continuous drilling program within the meaning of the lease. View "Sundown Energy LP v. HJSA No. 3" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the trial court concluding that indemnity claims fell within an exception to an arbitration clause and that the non-signatory assignees were bound by the agreement under a theory of assumption, holding that Plaintiffs' request for a declaratory judgment was subject to mandatory arbitration.As president of Wagner Oil Company, Bryan Wagner signed a purchase and sale agreement (PSA) purchasing several assets from Apache Corporation. The PSA contained an indemnification provision and an arbitration clause. Later, third-party surface landowners filed lawsuits against Apache, seeking damages for alleged environmental contamination caused by Apache's operation of the assets before they were sold. Apache filed a demand for arbitration against Plaintiffs, including Wagner Oil and Wagner, for indemnity and defense. Plaintiffs then filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that Plaintiffs were not parties to the PSA and therefore not subject to the arbitration and indemnity clauses. The trial court denied Apache's motion to compel arbitration. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the indemnity disputes over third party-claims fall within the scope of the arbitration clause and outside its exception; and (2) the Wagner Oil signees were bound by the arbitration clause. View "Wagner v. Apache Corp." on Justia Law

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In this second action arising out of a joint effort by TRO-X, L.P. and Eagle Oil & Gas Co. to acquire and sell oil-and-gas the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Eagle, holding that Eagle did not conclusively establish the affirmative defenses that were the basis of its summary judgment motion.In its first suit, TRO-X alleged that Eagle deprived TRO-X of its right to acquire its share of mineral leases that Eagle retained as part of the leases' sale. The court of appeals determined that TRO-X had not been deprived of equitable title to those interests because TRO-X had always held them. In this second suit, TRO-X claimed that Eagle failed to remit its share of income generated from production on the interests that commenced after the first trial's conclusion. The trial court granted summary judgment for Eagle, and the court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Eagle did not conclusively establish the affirmative defenses of res judicata, statute of limitations, or waiver. View "Eagle Oil & Gas Co. v. TRO-X, L.P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court's decision resolving all issues in this oil and gas dispute favorably to the lessors of a mineral lease and awarding damages for underpayment of royalties, holding that remand was required to determine damages, if any, for off-premises compressor-fuel use.One lease provision in this case required the lessee to "compute and pay royalties on the gross value received." The other lease provision at issue required royalties to be "computed at the end of the mouth of the well." The Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts' judgments except as to the portion of the judgment awarding damages for royalties on compressor fuel, holding (1) the lower courts correctly concluded that the lessee's deduction of postproduction costs was in error because the mineral lease explicitly resolved the conflict in favor of a gross-proceeds calculation; and (2) because the compressor-fuel damages were not conclusively established in the amount awarded, remand was required. View "BlueStone Natural Resources II, LLC v. Randle" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over the meaning of an oil and gas lease covering an 11,300-acre tract in Howard County, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Energen Resources Corp. and John Quinn, holding that the contested provision of the lease in this case was ambiguous.The lease at issue allowed Endeavor Energy Resources, L.P. to retain its leasehold interest in the parcel only by drilling a new well every 150 days, with the exception that Endeavor could "accumulate unused days in any 150-day term...in order to extend the next allowed 150-day term between the completion of one well and the drilling of a subsequent well." At issue on appeal was how to calculate the number of "unused days." Energen and Quinn argued that the contested provision unambiguously allowed unused days earned in any term to be carried forward only once to the next 150-day term. The trial court agreed, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the disputed provision was ambiguous. View "Endeavor Energy Resources, LP v. Energen Resources Corp." on Justia Law