Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
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The case revolves around the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) and two market participants, RWE Renewables Americas, LLC and TX Hereford Wind, LLC. Following Winter Storm Uri, the Legislature amended the Public Utility Regulatory Act (PURA) to require that protocols adopted by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) must be approved by the PUC before they take effect. ERCOT then adopted a revision to its protocols, which was approved by the PUC, setting the price of electricity at the regulatory maximum under Energy Emergency Alert Level 3 conditions. RWE challenged the PUC's approval order in the Third Court of Appeals, arguing that the order was both substantively and procedurally invalid.The Third Court of Appeals held that the PUC's order was both substantively invalid—because the PUC exceeded its statutory authority by setting the price of electricity—and procedurally invalid—because the PUC failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act’s rulemaking procedures in issuing the order.The Supreme Court of Texas reviewed the case and held that the PUC’s approval order is not a “competition rule[] adopted by the commission” subject to the judicial-review process for PUC rules. The court found that PURA envisions a separate process for ERCOT-adopted protocols, and the statutory requirement that the PUC approve those adopted protocols does not transform PUC approval orders into PUC rules eligible for direct review by a court of appeals. Therefore, the Third Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction over this proceeding. The Supreme Court of Texas vacated the court of appeals’ judgment and dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. View "Public Utility Commission v. RWE Renewables Americas, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Texas reviewed a case involving Samson Exploration, LLC and several families, including the Bordages, from whom Samson held oil-and-gas leases. The families sued Samson for unpaid royalties under those leases. The Bordages claimed that they were entitled to late charges on the late charges, arguing that the leases' Late Charge Provision imposed late charges on late charges, compounding them each month. Samson disagreed, asserting that the late charges were not compounded.Previously, the trial court found Samson liable for breach of contract and awarded the Bordages $12,955,919 in contract damages, based on the interpretation of the Late Charge Provision. The Bordages argued that collateral estoppel prevented the Supreme Court from deciding whether the Late Charge Provision calls for simple or compound interest because that issue was previously resolved in another case involving Samson and a different lessor, the Hooks case.The Supreme Court of Texas held that Texas law disfavors compound interest, and an agreement for interest on unpaid amounts is an agreement for simple interest absent an express, clear, and specific provision for compound interest. The court also held that Samson’s prior litigation of the issue does not collaterally estop it from asserting its claims here. The court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "SAMSON EXPLORATION, LLC v. BORDAGES" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between Anne Carl and related parties (the royalty holders) and Hilcorp Energy Company (the producer) over the calculation of royalties from a mineral lease. The lease stipulates that royalties are to be calculated based on the market value of the minerals "at the well," meaning before any post-production efforts have increased their value. However, the minerals are often not sold until after these efforts have taken place, resulting in a higher sale price. To account for this disparity, the producer deducted the proportionate share of post-production costs from the royalty payment, a method known as the "workback method." The royalty holders were dissatisfied with this reduced payment and sued, arguing that the lease required payment of a royalty on all gas produced from the well.The case was initially heard in a federal district court, which sided with the producer. The court found that the lease did indeed convey an "at-the-well" royalty, meaning the royalty holders were obligated to share proportionately in the post-production costs. The court also found no fault with the producer's method of accounting for these costs, which involved using some of the gas produced from the well to power post-production activities conducted off the lease. The value of this gas was considered a post-production cost and was therefore deducted from the total volume of gas used to calculate the royalty.The case was then certified to the Supreme Court of Texas, which affirmed the lower court's decision. The court agreed with the producer's interpretation of the lease and found that the royalty holders, as holders of an "at-the-well" royalty, were indeed obligated to bear their usual share of post-production costs. The court also found that the producer's method of accounting for these costs was permissible. The court concluded that the royalty holders were not shortchanged and that the producer's calculation was one acceptable way to convert the downstream sales price into an at-the-well market value on which to pay the royalty, as required by the lease. View "CARL v. HILCORP ENERGY COMPANY" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over the interpretation of an assignment of mineral rights. In 1987, Shell Western E&P, Inc. sold a large bundle of Texas oil-and-gas properties to the predecessor of Citation 2002 Investment LLC. The assignment included an exhibit that listed the properties being transferred, some of which included depth specifications. In 1997, Shell purported to assign all its interests in the same leases to Occidental Permian’s predecessor. Occidental claimed that Shell had reserved to itself interests beyond the depth specifications of the 1987 assignment. Citation, however, claimed that it received the entirety of Shell’s leasehold interests in the 1987 assignment.The trial court granted Occidental’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that the depth-specified tracts listed in the exhibit reserved to Shell the mineral-estate depths beyond the notations. Citation appealed, and the court of appeals reversed, holding that the 1987 assignment unambiguously conveyed the entirety of Shell’s interests in the leasehold estates without reserving portions of those interests to Shell.The Supreme Court of Texas affirmed the court of appeals' decision. The court held that the disputed assignment unambiguously conveyed all right, title, and interest that Shell owned in the leasehold estates listed in the exhibit, without reserving portions of those interests to itself through further notations about specific tracts within those estates. The court reasoned that the assignment's broad granting language, coupled with the absence of explicit reservation language, indicated that the entirety of the leasehold interests were conveyed. The court also noted that the depth specifications in the exhibit served a concrete purpose of providing notice of depth-specific third-party interests that continue after the leasehold estates are assigned. View "OCCIDENTAL PERMIAN, LTD. v. CITATION 2002 INVESTMENT LLC" 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 reversed the judgment of the court of appeals in this case concerning whether Apache Corporation breached its purchase-and-sale agreements (PSAs) with Sellers, holding the court of appeals erred by failing to apply the default common-law rule of contractual construction to the parties' dispute and incorrectly construed other contractual provisions at issue.In the PSAs at issue, Sellers sold seventy-five percent of their working interests in 109 oil-and-gas leases to Apache. The trial court rendered final judgment for Apache on the grounds that Sellers had no evidence of damages and could not prevail on their claims. The court of appeals reversed in part. At issue was whether the default rule for treating contracts that use the words "from" or "after" a specified date to measure a length of time should be applied in this case. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals as to the issues that the parties presented for review, holding that the parties' agreement in this case implicated the default rule without displacing it. View "Apache Corp. v. Apollo Exploration, LLC" on Justia Law

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In these two consolidated cases involving claims brought against the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. (ERCOT) the Supreme Court answered, among other questions, that ERCOT is a governmental unit as defined in the Texas Tort Claims Act and is thereby entitled to pursue an interlocutory appeal from the denial of a plea to the jurisdiction.CPS Energy sued ERCOT and several of its officers for, inter alia, breach of contract. The trial court denied ERCOT'S plea to the jurisdiction. Ultimately, the court of appeals held that ERCOT was a governmental unit entitled to take an interlocutory appeal. In the second case, Panda sued ERCOT for, inter alia, fraud. The trial court denied ERCOT's pleas to the jurisdiction. The court of appeals ultimately held that ERCOT was not entitled to sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed in the first case and reversed in the other, holding (1) ERCOT was entitled to pursue an interlocutory appeal from the denial of a plea to the jurisdiction; (2) the Public Utility Commission of Texas has exclusive jurisdiction over the parties' claims against ERCOT; and (3) ERCOT was entitled to sovereign immunity. View "CPS Energy v. Electric Reliability Council of Texas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the orders of the trial court granting TotalEnergies E&P USA, Inc.'s motion to stay arbitration before the American Arbitration Association (AAA) and denying MP Gulf of Mexico, LLC's motion to compel that arbitration, holding that the parties' contracts required them to resolve their controversies through arbitration.In the underlying dispute involving oil and gas leases Total E&P filed this suit seeking a declaratory construing the parties' cost sharing agreement. Thereafter, MP Gulf initiated an arbitration proceeding asserting that Total E&P breached the agreement. At issue was whether the parties clearly and unmistakably delegated arbitrability issues to the arbitrator by agreeing to arbitrate their controversies in accordance with the AAA Commercial Rules. The trial court granted Total E&P's motion to stay the AAA arbitration and denied MP Gulf's motion to compel that arbitration. The court of appeals reversed and compelled AAA arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the parties clearly and unmistakably delegated to the AAA arbitrator the decision of whether the parties' controversy must be resolved by arbitration. View "TotalEnergies E&P USA, Inc. v. MP Gulf of Mexico, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's holding that, as a matter of law, a statutory "safe-harbor" provision applied and relieved an operator of oil-and-gas wells from any obligation to pay interest in the amounts withheld, holding that the safe-harbor provision applied as a matter of law.At issue was the "safe harbor" provision that permits operators to withhold payments without interest under certain circumstances. In reliance with the safe harbor provision the operator in this case withheld production payments it was contractually obligated to make to one of the wells' owners. The owner brought suit seeking to recover the payments with interest. The operator made the payments but without interest. The trial court concluded that the safe-harbor provision allowed the operator to withhold the funds. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the operator established as a matter of law that it was entitled to withhold distribution of production payments without interest under the statutory safe-harbor provision of Tex. Nat. Res. Code 91.402(b)(1)(A) and (b)(1)(B)(ii). View "Freeport McMoRan Oil & Gas LLC v. 1776 Energy Partners, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's conclusion that contract language releasing claims against a named entity's predecessors barred the releasor's recovery against an unaffiliated and unrelated predecessor in title, holding that the court of appeals correctly rendered judgment that, as used in the release agreement, the term "predecessors" refers only to corporate predecessors.On appeal, Appellants argued that the neither the contract language nor the circumstances surrounding the execution of the release supported limiting the term "predecessors" to "corporate" predecessors and that "predecessors" naturally refers to predecessors in title. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the release was not ambiguous as to the meaning of "predecessors"; and (2) Appellees were entitled to summary judgment on the affirmative defenses of release, waiver, and third-party beneficiary. View "Finley Resources, Inc. v. Headington Royalty, Inc." on Justia Law