Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

by
At issue in this appeal was the computation of economic losses arising out of the BP oil spill and based on the BP Settlement Agreement. The district court approved a policy adopted by the Claims Administrator (Policy 495) that consists of five methodologies to calculate claimant compensation: one Annual Variable Margin Methodology (AVMM) and four Industry-Specific Methodologies (ISMs). The Fifth Circuit held that the AVMM was consistent with the text of the Settlement Agreement, but that the four ISMs were not. The district court erred in approving the ISMs because they required the Claims Administrator to move, smooth, or otherwise reallocate revenue in violation of the Settlement Agreement. However, the ISMs, also required the Claims Administrator to match all unmatched profit and loss statements. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to the AVMM, reversed as to the ISMs, and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re: Deepwater Horizon" on Justia Law

by
The most natural reading of La. R.S. 30:103.1 and 103.2 is that operators forfeit their right to contribution when they fail to send timely reports to lessees with oil and gas interests in lands upon which the operator has no lease, and that interpretation is most consistent with the statute's context and purpose. TDX filed suit seeking its share of revenues from a unit well without deduction of drilling costs because Chesapeake did not provide the requested reports. The Fifth Circuit rejected Chesapeake's contention that even if sections 103.1 and 103.2 provide a remedy for lessees, applying them in that way would violate Article III of the Louisiana constitution. The court explained that, given the liberal construction courts must give titles, a title which gave notice that an act dealt with operators' reporting requirements cannot fail because it did not specify every party to whom they must report. Finally, the court rejected Chesapeake's counterclaim asserting that TDX was required to pay a risk fee under La. R.S. 30:10(A) because TDX did not make an election regarding the risk fee under that provision. The court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded. View "TDX Energy v. Chesapeake Operating" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff purchased property on which oil and gas operations had been conducted. Plaintiff filed suit against Hess, asserting claims for damages stemming from contamination caused by the oil- and gas-related activities on the tract. The oil and gas leases expired in 1973 and plaintiff purchased the property in 2007, when all wells had been plugged and abandoned. The district court granted Hess's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the subsequent purchaser rule barred plaintiff's claims. The court explained that a clear consensus has emerged among all Louisiana appellate courts that have considered the issue, and they have held that the subsequent purchaser rule does apply to cases, like this one, involving expired mineral leases. Because this case presented no occasion to depart from precedent, the court deferred to these precedents, and held that the subsequent purchaser doctrine barred plaintiff's claims. The court noted that although the denial of a writ is not necessarily an approval of the appellate court's decision nor precedential, the Louisiana Supreme Court has had multiple opportunities to consider this issue and has repeatedly declined to do so. Finally, the court declined to certify questions to the state court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Guilbeau v. Hess Corp." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit against oil and gas companies and their insurers, claiming that the companies' dredging activities caused damage to the fisheries the fishermen used. The district court granted summary judgment for Florida Gas and Southern Natural because plaintiffs did not create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the companies' activities constituted "dredging" so as to support maritime tort claims. The district court then denied plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration. The court affirmed the district court's judgment as to Florida Gas because none of plaintiffs' evidence created a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Florida Gas participated in dredging activities. However, the court reversed the district court's judgment as to Southern Natural because plaintiffs presented new, conclusive evidence in their motion for reconsideration pertaining to Southern Natural that they were justified in not presenting earlier. In this case, plaintiffs provided three types of new evidence upon reconsideration: Southern Natural's deposition transcript; documentary evidence offered during Southern Natural's deposition; and Southern Natural's responses to requests for admission. The court disagreed with the district court's analysis, particularly as it pertained to Southern Natural's deposition transcript and responses to requests for admission. The court explained that these items were clearly probative and, if the district court would have considered the contents of Southern Natural's deposition or its admissions, plaintiffs would have defeated summary judgment as to Southern Natural. View "In Re: Louisiana Crawfish Producers" on Justia Law

by
BP built and maintained the Atlantis Platform, a semi-submersible floating oil production facility located in the Gulf of Mexico. Plaintiff Keith Abbott, employed by BP in the Atlantis administrative offices, filed suit under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3730(b)(2), claiming that BP falsely certified compliance with various regulatory requirements. While DOI was investigating Atlantis, Abbott amended his complaint to add Food & Water Watch as a plaintiff and included additional claims for violations of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), 43 U.S.C. 1331 et seq. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment for BP on all claims. In this case, plaintiffs' FCA claims centered on whether engineers approved the various stages of construction of Atlantis. The court explained that these facts failed to create an issue of fact as to materiality given the particular circumstances in plaintiffs' case. In light of Universal Health Servs., Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, when the DOI decided to allow Atlantis to continue drilling after a substantial investigation into plaintiffs' allegations, that decision represented "strong evidence" that the requirements in those regulations were not material. In regard to plaintiffs' OCSLA claims, the court concluded that plaintiffs lack standing because they failed to plead individualized injuries. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Abbott v. BP Exploration & Production" on Justia Law

by
The Board filed suit in Louisiana state court against various companies involved in the exploration for and production of oil reserves off the southern coast of the United States, alleging that defendants' exploration activities caused infrastructural and ecological damage to coastal lands overseen by the Board that increased the risk of flooding due to storm surges and necessitated costly flood protection measures. The district court denied the Board's motion to remand after removal to federal court, and then granted defendants' motion for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. The court concluded that the Board's negligence and nuisance claims necessarily raised federal issues sufficient to justify federal jurisdiction and thus the court did not reach the remaining issues. The court also concluded that the district court properly dismissed the negligence claim because the Board failed to establish that defendants breached a duty of care to it under the facts alleged, the Board's strict liability claim failed because the Board did not state a claim that defendants owed it a duty of care; the district court properly dismissed the servitude of drain claim; and the Board failed to state a claim for nuisance. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Board of Commissioners of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co." on Justia Law

by
This case concerns BP's obligations under the Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Settlement Agreement. Appellant is a company that filed Business Economic Loss claims under the settlement agreement on behalf of five of its stores. The CSSP and the Appeal Panel determined that the stores were not tourism businesses and denied the claims for failure to satisfy the causation requirement. In this consolidated appeal, appellant challenged the district court's denial of discretionary review. The court concluded that there was no abuse in discretion in classifying the stores under North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code 441310 as automotive parts and accessories stores. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Claimant ID 100212278 v. BP Exploration & Production" on Justia Law

by
Enable, operator of a federally regulated natural gas storage facility, filed suit against Nadel, alleging that a natural gas well operated by Nadel was producing gas from this storage facility. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court joined its sister circuits and declined to extend the federal exclusivity provision of the Natural Gas Act (NGA), 15 U.S.C. 717 et seq., to cover claims of interference with duties under the NGA against defendants who have no statutory duties of their own under the Act. Therefore, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear the underlying suit and affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint. The court denied as moot Enable's motion to disqualify Nadel's counsel. View "Enable MS River Transmission v. Nadel & Gussman" on Justia Law

by
This case concerns a scheme of planning, cost allocation, and regulation imposed by FERC on EP Electric and the Intervenor electricity providers. EP Electric appealed from three decisions in which the Commission reviewed and required revisions to certain compliance filing that EP Electric and other utilities filed with FERC pursuant to Order No. 1000. Order No. 1000 is FERC’s rule regulating regional transmission planning and cost allocation by public utilities, also known as “jurisdictional utilities.” The court concluded that the Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its mandates regarding the role of non-jurisdictional utilities in cost allocation and regional planning in the WestConnect region. Therefore, the court granted the petitions for review in part. The court vacated the Commission's Compliance Orders on these issues for further explanation and proceedings. The court denied review or dismissed in all other respects because EP Electric's remaining challenges to FERC's actions fail. View "El Paso Electric Co. v. FERC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff and the putative class filed suit claiming to be post-foreclosure owners of disputed oil and gas interests. After the case was removed by defendants under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2), plaintiff moved to remand to state court under the local controversy exception. The district court granted the motion and remanded. Although plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence to show that, under the narrow definition, the proposed class consists of over two-thirds Texas citizens, the court concluded that plaintiff has failed to present any evidence about those owners who purchased mineral interests post-foreclosure but have since sold or otherwise relinquished their interests. The court also concluded that plaintiff has not proven that the exception for local controversies applies because the class that the petition at the time of removal sought to have certified is not clearly limited to current owners, and there is inadequate evidence of the citizenship of the interim owners in the broader class. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Arbuckle Mountain Ranch v. Chesapeake Energy" on Justia Law