Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Snoqualmie Valley Pres. Alliance v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng’rs
Puget Sound Energy (PSE) maintains and operates a hydroelectric power plant at Snoqualmie Falls in Washington state. PSE sought verification from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) that it could proceed with upgrading and modifying its plant under a series of general nationwide permits (NWPs) authorizing certain discharges rather than applying to the Corps for an individual permit. PSE had already obtained a license for the project from FERC. The Corps verified that it could. Downstream property owners formed the Snoqualmie Valley Preservation Alliance (Alliance) to challenge this decision. The district court granted summary judgment for the Corps. The Ninth Circuit court of appeals affirmed, holding (1) this suit was not an improper collateral attack against the FERC license and amendment; (2) NWP 17, the only nationwide permit which specifically references hydropower projects, is not exclusively applicable to hydropower projects; (3) the Corps did not err in verifying that NWPs 3 and 39 authorize the project; and (4) the Corps' verification letter contained a sufficient articulation of the basis for its decision. View "Snoqualmie Valley Pres. Alliance v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs" on Justia Law
Bullion Monarch Mining, Inc. v. Barrick Goldstrike Mines, Inc.
This case arose when plaintiff alleged that defendant owed it mineral royalty payments pursuant to an area-of-interest provision contained in a 1979 agreement. The court certified two questions to the Nevada Supreme Court: (1) Under Nevada law, does the Rule Against Perpetuities apply to an area-of-interest provision in a commercial agreement? and (2) If the Rule Against Perpetuities did apply, is reformation available under Nevada Revised Statute 111.1039(2)? All further proceedings in the case were stayed pending receipt of the answer from the Nevada Supreme Court. View "Bullion Monarch Mining, Inc. v. Barrick Goldstrike Mines, Inc." on Justia Law
Native Village of Point Hope, et al. v. Salazar, et al.; Inupiat Community v. Salazar
In expedited petitions for review, the court considered the allegations of petitioners that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) failed to discharge obligations under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) in approving Shell's plan for exploratory oil drilling in the Beaufort Sea. The court concluded that BOEM's decision that Shell's exploration plan complied with OCSLA's requirements was entitled to deference and was supported by the record as a whole. Accordingly, the court denied the expedited petitions. View "Native Village of Point Hope, et al. v. Salazar, et al.; Inupiat Community v. Salazar" on Justia Law
Tri-Valley Cares, et al. v. U.S. Dept. of Energy, et al.
This case arose out of plaintiffs' second challenge to the sufficiency of the DOE's Environmental Assessment (EA) of a prospective "biosafety level-3" (BSL-3) facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). On appeal, plaintiffs petitioned the court to require the DOE to prepare an Environment Impact Statement (EIS), or in the alternative, to revise its EA, in light of the allegations set forth in its original complaint, to determine whether an EIS was required. The court held that the DOE took the requisite "hard look" at the environmental impact of an intentional terrorist attack in the manner required by the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321, et seq., and San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The court further held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiffs' motion to supplement the record. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "Tri-Valley Cares, et al. v. U.S. Dept. of Energy, et al." on Justia Law
Montana Consumer Counsel v. FERC; Upper Peninsula Power Co., et al. v. FERC; Public Citizen, Inc., et al. v. FERC
This case stemmed from FERC's statutory mandate set out in the Federal Power Act (FPA), 16 U.S.C. 824-824w, to ensure that all rates and charges made, demanded, or received by power wholesalers were just and reasonable. Petitioners subsequently sought review of FERC's final order (Order 697), contending that the order violated FERC's governing statutes. In Order 697, FERC codified the existing limited market-based policy, along with multiple enhancements, in a final rule. At issue was whether the market-based regulatory policy established by FERC's order was permissible under the law. Taking into account Chevron deference, the law of the circuit, other relevant precedent, and the direction of the Supreme Court as to how the court should approach such administrative law issues concerning federal agencies, the court concluded that Order 697 did not per se violate the FPA. View "Montana Consumer Counsel v. FERC; Upper Peninsula Power Co., et al. v. FERC; Public Citizen, Inc., et al. v. FERC" on Justia Law
Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. M&M Petroleum Servs, Inc.
Chevron, the franchisor, brought suit for declaratory judgment against one of its franchised dealers, M&M Petroleum Services, Inc. M&M responded with a counterclaim of its own, a counterclaim that was not only found to be frivolous, but the product of perjury and other misconduct. The court held that had M&M merely defended Chevron's suit, it could not have been held liable for attorneys' fees. The court held, however, that in affirmatively bringing a counterclaim that was reasonably found to be frivilous, M&M opened itself up to liability for attorneys' fees under the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 2805(d)(3). Therefore, the district court did not err in determining that Chevron was eligible to recover attorneys' fees, nor did the district court abuse its discretion in determining that M&M's counterclaim was frivolous and awarding attorneys' fees to Chevron under section 2805(d)(3). View "Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. M&M Petroleum Servs, Inc." on Justia Law
Alvarez, et al. v. Chevron Corp., et al.
Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) of their putative consumer class action against defendants. Plaintiffs also appealed the district court's denial of leave to amend their second amended complaint, alleging that the design of defendants' retail gasoline dispensers was fundamentally flawed due to a residual fuel occurrence: when plaintiffs purchased premium grade fuel, they received between two and three-tenths of a gallon of residual fuel from the previous transaction, and therefore were overcharged when the previous purchaser had selected mid-range or regular grade fuel. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiffs' well-pleaded factual allegations, accepted as true, did not give rise to a reasonable inference that defendants have committed any misconduct for which the court could grant relief. Accordingly, further amendment would be futile and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying leave to amend. View "Alvarez, et al. v. Chevron Corp., et al." on Justia Law
Center for Environmental Law and Policy, et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, et al.
This case stemmed from a challenge by environmental groups to a proposed incremental drawdown of water from Lake Roosevelt in eastern Washington. At issue was whether the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) took a "hard look" and genuinely scrutinized the environmental consequence of its proposed action. The court held that, under its precedents and the circumstances presented, Reclamation's actions did not violate the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. The court also held that its review revealed no other deficiencies in the substance of the Environmental Assessment (EA), and although Reclamation took several steps toward implementing the drawdown project before drafting the EA, it scrupulously adhered to NEPA's timing requirements. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Center for Environmental Law and Policy, et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, et al." on Justia Law
K2 America Corp. v. Roland Oil & Gas. LLC
Plaintiff appealed the dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction of its action against defendant, alleging tort, contract, and state statutory claims and seeking, among other remedies, a constructive trust and declaratory judgment over an oil and gas lease located on allotted land, wherein title to the land was held by the United States in trust for various Indian allottees. At issue was whether the district court had federal jurisdiction. The court held that 28 U.S.C. 1360(b), 28 U.S.C. 1331, and 25 U.S.C. 345 did not grant federal jurisdiction and therefore, plaintiff presented no basis for concluding that the action was within the "limited jurisdiction" of federal courts. Accordingly, the district court properly dismissed the suit based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction and the court did not need to reach any other issues raised by the parties, including exhaustion of tribal remedies. The court noted, however, that its holding did not preclude plaintiff from seeking relief in Blackfeet Tribal Court. View "K2 America Corp. v. Roland Oil & Gas. LLC" on Justia Law
Cape Flattery Ltd. v. Titan Maritime, LLC
Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant, seeking indemnity and/or contribution based on the damage defendant allegedly caused through gross negligence in removing plaintiff's vessel from a coral reef. At issue was whether the district court properly denied defendant's motion to compel arbitration of the dispute under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq., where defendant alleged that the district court erred in refusing to apply English arbitrability law. The court held that based on the Supreme Court's reasoning in First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, courts should apply non-federal arbitrability law only if there was clear and unmistakable evidence that the parties intended to apply such non-federal law. Because there was no clear and unmistakable evidence in this case, federal arbitrability law applied. Under federal arbitrability law, the court's decisions in Mediterranean Enterprises, Inc. v. Ssangyong Construction Co. and Tracer Research Corp. v. National Environmental Services, Co., mandated a narrow interpretation of a clause providing for arbitration of all disputes "arising under" an agreement. Under this narrow interpretation, the present dispute was not arbitrable. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Cape Flattery Ltd. v. Titan Maritime, LLC" on Justia Law