Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
by
Defendants own the surface of land sitting atop the property leased by Petro Harvestor. When the lease expired, Petro Harvestor sought a declaratory judgment that it could continue to operate its oil and gas activities on the property. Defendants claimed that the Surface Lease required Petro Harvester to return the surface land to its pre-lease condition upon expiration, requiring that Petro Harvester remove its machinery and vacate the property. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Petro Harvestor, holding that the district court correctly held that the Surface Lease here does not supersede the Mineral Lease; the district court properly rejected defendants' affirmative defenses of waiver, ratification, and estoppel; Mississippi's statute of limitations does not bar Petro Harvester's declaratory judgment action; and defendants waived any argument that there are genuine issues of material fact that preclude summary judgment. View "Petro Harvester Operating Co. v. Keith" on Justia Law

by
In this appeal stemming from the Deepwater Horizon litigation, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting discretionary review and affirming a $77 million award against BP. The court held that the district court failed to consider investigating credible evidence of a sole, superseding cause for the claimant's loss. Furthermore, the district court's decision was made without the benefit of this circuit's guidance on causation. In this case, claimant is a global commodities merchandiser that purchases and supplies ammonia and fertilizers around the world. BP argued that claimant passed the V-Shaped Revenue Pattern due solely to a price spike and drop in the price of fertilizer that was unrelated to the oil spill. The court remanded for the district court to examine the issue in the first instance and to determine whether to remand to the Claims Administrator for additional factfinding. View "BP Exploration & Production, Inc. v. Claimant ID 100191715" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) dismissal of LOGI's complaint for failure to state a claim. The magistrate judge and district court concluded that LOGI failed to provide Shell and Gulfport with notice under Article 137 of the Louisiana Mineral Code of their alleged failure to pay royalties timely and properly, and that LOGI consequently was barred from recovering under Article 138. Applying Louisiana law, the court held that the magistrate judge and district court did not err in determining that plaintiff's January 2014 communication was insufficient under Article 137. Furthermore, LOGI's second communication also did not satisfy the requirements of Article 137. View "Louisiana Oil & Gas Interests, LLC v. Shell Trading U.S. Co." on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision declining discretionary review of the appeal panel's affirmance of a Settlement Program determination that Walmart's submission was a "start-up business" claim. The court also affirmed the nearly $1 million award. In this case, Walmart submitted an economic loss claim under the Deepwater Horizon Settlement Agreement for one of its stores located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The store had reopened six months before the oil spill, having been closed ever since it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina years earlier. The court held that the underlying appeal panel decision did not actually contradict or misapply the Settlement Agreement on a pressing question of implementation, and there was no split among appeal panels on the issue presented. View "BP Exploration & Production, Inc. v. Claimant ID 100354107" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of discretionary review of five awards made to Walmart under the Settlement Agreement arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The court held that there was no showing of a misapplication or contradiction of the Settlement Agreement requiring the district court's review. In this case, the Claims Administrator conducted a searching review of the financial statements Walmart provided from both its old and new accounting system, and the PWC accountants brought specific clarification questions to Walmart regarding the changes. Furthermore, Walmart responded to the satisfaction of the Claims Administrator. The court rejected BP's claim that there was a split Appeal Panels on how to address changes in accounting systems like the one at issue here. The court saw BP's claim as one challenging the Appeal Panels' discretionary decision that raises the correctness of a discretionary administrative decision on the facts of a single claimant's case, and held that the district court's denial of a request for discretionary review of such a decision was not an abuse of discretion. View "BP Exploration & Production, Inc. v. Claimant ID 100354107" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this oil and gas royalty case were orders to pay issued by the Department of the Interior to W&T in order to resolve volumetric gas delivery imbalances. The district court granted partial summary judgment on each of the parties' motions. The Fifth Circuit held that the Department of the Interior permissibly required resolution of delivery imbalances via cash payment, but that it improperly promulgated a substantive rule without subjecting it to notice and comment. The court also held that the Department of the Interior should have credited all W&T’s deliveries under the doctrine of equitable recoupment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's partial grant of summary judgment in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "W & T Offshore, Inc. v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's decision to decline discretionary review of the denial of claimant's claim for damages resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. At issue was whether a claimant's alleged unlawful conduct wholly or partially disqualifies it from the Settlement Program and, if so, what evidence is adequate to show that the claimant engaged in such conduct. The court held that the parties have been unable to give the court clear answers that were rooted in the Settlement Agreement or other law. The court found a three-way split among appeal panels on the significance of wrongdoing, and the parties have neither agreed nor persuaded the court as to what the legal framework ought to be. Therefore, and in light of the recurrence of the issues this appeal implicated, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Claimant ID 100235033 v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc." on Justia Law

by
A group of menhaden fishermen challenged the denial of their claims pursuant to a punitive damages settlement agreement between a class of claimants, who alleged that they were harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and defendants. As a preliminary matter, the Fifth Circuit granted the Fishermen's motion to take judicial notice of the docket and complaint in Bruhmuller v. BP Exploration & Production Inc. The court held that the magistrate judge did not err by affirming the denial of Fishermen's claims, because the Fishermen did not attempt to comply with Pretrial Order 60 at any point throughout these proceedings. The court also held that the district court did not err in declining to review the magistrate judge's decision, and the district court did not err in denying the Fishermen's Rule 60(b) motion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Lake Eugenie Land & Development, Inc. v. Halliburton Energy Services, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After Whistler entered into a drilling contract with Nabors, Whistler entered into bankruptcy proceedings and rejected the contract. Nabors subsequently sought administrative priority in the bankruptcy proceeding for expenses incurred after the rejection of its contract, and the bankruptcy court granted the request in part and denied in part. The Fifth Circuit held that a creditor can establish that its expenses are attributable to the actions of the bankruptcy estate through evidence of either a direct request from the debtor-in-possession or other inducement via the knowing and voluntary post-petition acceptance of desired goods or services. The court clarified that when the debtor-in-possession induces availability and the bankruptcy estate derives a benefit from it, the ordinary cost of ensuring such availability qualifies as an administrative expense. The court remanded for the bankruptcy court to determine (1) whether Whistler induced Nabors to stay on the platform; (2) the length of time Nabors stayed on the platform because of Whistler's post-petition needs; and (3) the actual and necessary costs of staying on the platform during this time period. The court left it to the bankruptcy court to clarify its own findings regarding Nabors's provision of services. Finally, the court affirmed the bankruptcy court's denial of Nabors' requests for administrative priority in full. View "Nabors Offshore Corp. v. Whistler Energy II, LLC" on Justia Law

by
This appeal arose from a dispute over a Business Economic Loss claim stemming from the Deepwater Horizon Class Action Settlement Agreement. In Policy 495, the Claims Administrator established different methods for correcting unmatched financial statements. The first method created an Annual Variable Margin Methodology (AVMM), and the second method created Industry-Specific Methodologies (ISMs) for claimants working in construction, agriculture, education, and professional services. The Fifth Circuit upheld the AVMM but rejected the ISMs in In re Deepwater Horizon (Policy 495 Decision), 858 F.3d 298, 304 (5th Cir. 2017). The court held that the AVMM appropriately required the Claims Administrator to ensure that costs were registered in the same month as corresponding revenue, regardless of when those costs were incurred. However, the ISMs went too far by requiring smoothing profits in addition to matching revenues and expenses. Therefore, the court held that all claimants must be subject to the AVMM. On remand, the district court issued orders to implement the court's decision. However, the court held that the district court's orders were inconsistent with the court's mandate in the Policy 495 Decision. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Lake Eugenie Land & Development, Inc. v. BP Exploration, Inc." on Justia Law