Articles Posted in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Since the early 1990s, Chevron and its predecessor Texaco, Inc., have defended litigation concerning Texaco's operations in Ecuador and the environmental contamination it allegedly produced. This litigation started in the Southern District of New York but eventually found its way to Ecuadorian courts. In 2011, the court in Lago Agrio entered an $18.2 billion judgment against Chevron, which Chevron appealed. In this case, Chevron appealed the United States district court's order granting a motion to compel production of documents pursuant to subpoenas issued under 28 U.S.C. 1782. Chevron sought relief from that judgment pursuant to investment treaty arbitration under United Nations' rules. Finding no error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's order. View "The Republic of Ecuador, et al v. Bjorkman" on Justia Law

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This matter arose from efforts by Wasatch Wind Intermountain, LLC to establish two wind energy projects. These efforts drew the ire of the Northern Laramie Range Alliance, which objected to Wasatch’s certification to sell the energy. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejected the objections, and the Alliance appealed FERC’s decision. The threshold issue for the Tenth Circuit was whether the Alliance has established standing, which requires traceability and redressability. For both, the Alliance relied on increases in electricity rates. But the wind projects had not been completed, Wasatch had not found a buyer for the anticipated wind power, and it was unknown whether sales of wind energy would increase or decrease Northern Laramie's costs. With the uncertainties surrounding the effect of Wasatch’s certification or decertification on electricity rates, the Court concluded the Alliance did not show either traceability or redressability. The Court therefore dismissed the petition for lack of standing. View "N. Laramie Range Alliance v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The federal government moved the Osage Nation to the State of Oklahoma. Years later, the Nation discovered its new home contained mammoth reserves of oil and gas. The federal government appropriated itself as trustee, to oversee collection of royalty income and its distribution to tribal members. In this lawsuit, tribal members sought an accounting to determine whether the federal government fulfilled its fiduciary obligations. The district court dismissed the tribal members’ claims. Upon review of the district court record, the Tenth Circuit found the tribe was entitled to an accounting, and accordingly reversed. View "Fletcher, et al v. United States, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Farrell-Cooper Mining Company and Defendant-Appellant Oklahoma Department of Mines appealed a district court's dismissal of their claims for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Department of Interior; the Secretary of the Interior; the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement; and the Director of OSMRE. A dispute arose over reclamation requirements contained in surface coal mine permits for Farrell-Cooper's Liberty Mine #5 and Liberty Mine #6. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit dismissed the appeal as unripe. View "Farrell-Cooper Mining Company v. US Department of the Interior, et al" on Justia Law

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Petitioner WildEarth Guardians challenged an Environmental Protection Agency order that denied in part its petition for an objection to a Title V operating permit issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to Intervenor Public Service Company of Colorado (d/b/a Xcel Energy), for a coal-fired power station in Morgan County, Colorado. Petitioner argued that the permit should have included a plan to bring the station into compliance with the Clean Air Act. The EPA denied Petitioner's petition for an objection despite the EPA's issuing a citation to Public Service for violating the act in 2002. The EPA concluded that Petitioner's evidence failed to demonstrate a violation, and that the state agency adequately responded to Petitioner's comments before it issued the permit. Petitioner petitioned the Tenth Circuit on appeal. The Court saw no error in the EPA's persuasive interpretation of the demonstration requirement. Furthermore, the Court concluded the agency did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in concluding that Petitioner failed to demonstrate noncompliance with the Act. Therefore the Court affirmed the EPA's order denying in part the petition to object. View "WildEarth v. EPA" on Justia Law

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A dispute arose between Elm Ridge Exploration Company, LLC, an operator of oil and gas leases in New Mexico, and Fred Engle, who owned a majority of those leases. Elm Ridge sought to recover drilling expenses by foreclosing on Engle's lease interests. Engle counterclaimed, arguing that Elm Ridge had no authority to operate, and broadly that Elm Ridge breached its contractual and fiduciary duties. Engle also filed a third-party complaint against the previous operators, Central Resources, Inc. and Giant Exploration & Production Company. The district court dismissed two counts on Engle's counterclaim against Elm Ridge and the third-party complaint on statute of limitations grounds. After a trial on Engle's remaining counterclaim count (breach of contractual and fiduciary duties), a jury found that Elm Ridge breached the Operating Agreement and could not recover drilling expenses. The jury found that Engle still owed Elm Ridge for other drilling costs. The district court calculated Engle's share of the costs not attributable to the breach, and held Elm Ridge was entitled to a foreclosure order. Both parties appealed. Finding no error in the district court's calculation or ultimate disposition of the case, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Engle v. Elm Ridge Exploration Co." on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant XTO Energy, Inc. appealed a district court's certification of a class of Kansas royalty owners who sought recovery for its alleged underpayment of royalties. Specifically, the class claimed XTO violated Kansas law by improperly deducting costs for placing gas into a "marketable condition." After careful consideration, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the class did not meet Rule 23(a)'s commonality, typicality and adequacy requirements or Rule 23(b)(3)'s predominance requirement. Furthermore, the Court found the class' argument in favor of certification through collateral or judicial estoppel unavailing. The class certification order was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Wallace B. Roderick Revocable Trust v. XTO Energy" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Tenth Circuit in this case centered on whether the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA), as amended by the Reform Act of 1987, required the Secretary of the Interior to issue leases for parcels of land to the highest bidding energy company within sixty days of payment to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Appellants (collectively, "Energy Companies") sued to compel the Secretary to issue pending leases on which they were the high bidders and more than sixty days had passed since they had paid the BLM in full. The district court construed the MLA to impose a mandate on the Secretary to decide whether to issue the leases, and ordered BLM to make such decisions regarding the still pending leases of Energy Companies within thirty days. Energy Companies appealed the district court's order and asserted that the MLA required the Secretary to issue the pending leases within sixty days rather than merely make a decision on whether the leases will be issued. Upon review of the matter, the Tenth Circuit held that the district court’s order was not a "final decision," and as such, the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the Energy Companies' appeal. View "Western Energy Alliance v. Salazar" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Eric Rajala, Trustee of the bankruptcy estate of Generation Resources Holding Company, LLC (GRHC), appealed a district court order which granted motions by Defendants-Appellees FreeStream Capital, LLC (FreeStream) and Lookout Windpower Holding Co., LLC (LWHC) to distribute approximately $9 million held in escrow. The amount represented part of the purchase price of a wind power project allegedly developed by GRHC. The Trustee claimed that GRHC had been left with $5 million in debt while the individual Defendants-Appellees and their affiliated entities received some $13 million in proceeds from the sale of several wind power projects, unburdened by the debt. The issue on appeal before the Tenth Circuit was what constituted property of the bankruptcy estate and whether allegedly fraudulently transferred property was subject to the Bankruptcy Code's automatic stay before a trustee recovers the property through an avoidance action. The district court held that allegedly fraudulently transferred property was not part of the bankruptcy estate until recovered and therefore was beyond the reach of the automatic stay. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed: "[i]n the end, we need not pass upon the constitutionality of such a broad reading. . . . This interpretation gives Congress's chosen language its ordinary meaning, and abides by the rule against surplusage. Further, our reading does not undermine the Bankruptcy Code's goal of equitable distribution, as there exist[s] alternative means of protecting estate assets." View "Rajala v. Garnder" on Justia Law

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Several environmental groups challenged decisions made by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) regarding the legality of thirty-nine oil and gas leases in Southern Utah, owned by Kirkwood Oil and Gas, LLC and William C. Kirkwood. In the 1980s, Kirkwood applied to have its oil and gas leases converted to combined hydrocarbon leases, which would allow Kirkwood to extract oil from tar sands. At the time, BLM never accepted or rejected Kirkwood's applications. Between 2006 and 2008, BLM and IBLA issued several decisions declaring that the underlying oil and gas leases were "suspended" pending review of the conversion applications. The groups alleged that the BLM and IBLA violated the Mineral Leasing Act and other federal laws by retroactively deeming the leases to be suspended, avoiding expiration of the leases according to their terms. The district court held the groups did not have standing to bring its claims and dismissed the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Although the district court misapplied the law in important respects with regard to standing, the Tenth Circuit ultimately held that this case was not ripe for review. View "S. Utah Wilderness Alliance v. Palma" on Justia Law