Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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The Fifth Circuit granted Nevada's motion to dismiss Texas' petitions for declaratory and injunctive relief in a dispute arising out of the government's struggle with nuclear waste disposal under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. Texas sought equitable relief prohibiting the Department of Energy from conducting any other consent-based siting activity and ordering defendants to finish the Yucca licensure proceedings. The court held that the deadline in 42 U.S.C. 10139(c) was not jurisdictional, and thus proceeded to consider whether the continuing violations doctrine may apply to Texas' claims; applying either versions of the continuing violations doctrine, whether as a tolling mechanism or as an apparent shorthand for an exercise in statutory interpretation, Texas' claims were still untimely; the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the Department of Energy's 2017 consent-based siting activities because they were not sufficiently final under the statute; and thus Texas' claims did not satisfy the statutory requirements of timeliness or finality. View "Texas v. United States" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was whether a certain Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) order conflicted with a prior Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) order. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's order and rendered judgment in favor of PUCT and TIEC, holding that PUCT's order was not in conflict with any FERC order. The court held that FERC's orders requiring the Entergy compliance filing did not call for a retroactive reallocation of 2007 Bandwidth Payments; Entergy's compliance filing did not contain a retroactive reallocation that FERC approved in the 2015 FERC Order; the 2015 FERC Order did not retroactively reallocate 2007 Bandwidth Payments; and PUCT's Order was consistent with the 2015 FERC Order. View "Entergy Texas, Inc. v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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Vendors and contractors provided materials and services in connection with an offshore mineral lease. Under the Louisiana Oil Well Lien Act, La. Rev. Stat. 9:4863(A)(1), 9:4864(A)(1), they secured liens on the lessee’s operating interest upon the commencement of labor. They timely recorded the liens. The lessee later sold “term overriding royalty interests” to OHA. In the lessee’s subsequent bankruptcy proceeding, the service providers intervened, seeking to enforce their liens on OHA’s royalty interests. The district court agreed with the bankruptcy court and dismissed their complaints, concluding that the statute that created the liens extinguished them via a safe-harbor provision. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The safe-harbor question is one of statutory interpretation: Was OHA’s purchase of the overriding royalties a purchase of “hydrocarbons that are sold or otherwise transferred in a bona fide onerous transaction by the lessee or other person who severed or owned them” at severance? The royalties were “sold,” the transaction was “bona fide,” and the seller was a “lessee.” OHA purchased more than an interest in proceeds; it purchased an interest in the to-be-produced hydrocarbons themselves. A purchase of overriding royalties is a purchase of “hydrocarbons” under the statute, so the lienholders’ failure to provide pre-purchase notice renders their liens extinguished. View "OHA Investment Corp. v. Schlumberger Technology Corp." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of discretionary review of the denial of claims arising from a class action settlement program resulting from the Deepwater Horizon Incident. The court held that the Court Supervised Settlement Program (CSSP) likely did not misapply or misconstrue the final E&P Settlement Agreement because it did not decide that claimant's inactivity precluded it from the class. Rather, CSSP found that claimant was a class member, who did not provide sufficient documentation for the Program Accountant to calculate an award. View "Claimant ID 100187856 v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc." on Justia Law

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ExxonMobil’s 859-mile long Pegasus Pipeline transports crude oil from Patoka, Illinois to Nederland, Texas. In March 2013, it ruptured, spilling several thousand barrels of oil near Mayflower, Arkansas. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, within the U.S. Department of Transportation, conducted an investigation and concluded that ExxonMobil violated several pipeline safety regulations under the Pipeline Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 60101. Specifically, the agency found that the integrity management program (IMP) plan had not properly accounted for the risk of longitudinal seam failure and that this was a contributing factor in the Mayflower release. The agency assessed a $2.6 million civil penalty and ordered ExxonMobil to take certain actions to ensure compliance with those regulations. The Fifth Circuit vacated certain items in the order. Finding that it owed no deference to the agency’s interpretation of the regulation, the court concluded that ExxonMobil reasonably applied 49 CFR 195.452(e)(1)’s instruction to “consider” all relevant risk factors in making its pipeline susceptibility determination. The court remanded with an instruction to reevaluate the basis for the penalty associated with another violation. View "ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. v. United States Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The Oil Pollution Act (OPA), as confirmed by the Act's legislative history, grants to an OPA Responsible Party the right to receive contribution from other entities who were partially at fault for a discharge of oil. Specifically, a Responsible Party may recover from a jointly liable third party any damages it paid to claimants, including those arising out of purely economic losses. In a suit arising from a collision of two barges, the district court found both Settoon and Marquette Transportation were negligent. The Fifth Circuit held that Settoon could receive contribution from Marquette for its payment of purely economic damages, i.e., for the cleanup costs. The court also held that the district court's apportionment of fault was not clearly erroneous. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In re: Settoon Towing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Total Gas and two of its trading managers filed a declaratory judgment action against the Commission arguing that the Commission was precluded from adjudicating violations or imposing civil penalties because the Natural Gas Act (NGA) vests authority for those activities exclusively in federal district courts. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the Commission's motion to dismiss, holding that Total's suit was not ripe for review in light of controlling precedent, Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. v. FERC. In this case, instead of objecting to any actions FERC has already taken, Total seeks to preemptively challenge a FERC order that may never be issued. The court explained that all of Total's arguments were predicated on future events and were brought before FERC has even scheduled the matter for a hearing—let alone issued an order finding a NGA violation and imposing a civil penalty. View "TOTAL Gas & Power North America, Inc. v. FERC" on Justia Law