Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the Energy Facilities Siting Board approving a project change petition filed by NSTAR Electric Company, doing business as Eversource Energy, that would move the boundaries of an electric substation 190 feet from the location that had previously been approved, holding that the Board did not err in approving the project change.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the Board did not err in determining that GreenRoots, Inc. did not satisfy the applicable legal standard for the reopening of a completed adjudicatory proceeding; (2) the Board complied with the statutory and regulatory requirements regarding public participation and environmental justice; and (3) the Board's conclusion that Eversource reasonably addressed risks from future sea level rise under the circumstances was supported by substantial evidence. View "GreenRoots, Inc. v. Energy Facilities Siting Bd." on Justia Law

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The issue this appeal presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on the denial of tax benefits relating to petitioner Preston Olsen's purchase of solar lenses. The benefits were only available if the taxpayer had a profit motive for the purchases. Olsen bought the lenses in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, through a program created by Neldon Johnson. Under the program, Johnson would use the lenses in a new system to generate electricity by heating a liquid to generate steam and drive a turbine. Johnson never finished the system; he had completed the lenses on only one tower and hadn’t decided whether those lenses would heat water, oil, or molten salt. Johnson funded the program through investors like Olsen who bought lenses from Johnson’s companies and leased the lenses to another of Johnson’s companies. Once the system began producing revenue, Johnson's company would pay Olsen’s company $150 per lens per year. But the system never generated any revenue. From 2009 to 2014, Olsen annually claimed depreciation deductions and solar energy credits on the lenses. These claims allowed the Olsens to pay little or no federal income taxes. "So the Olsens came out ahead even though they had never obtained any money from the leases." The tax court disallowed the benefits in part because it found Petitioner lacked a profit motive. Finding no reversible error in the tax court's decision, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Olsen, et al. v. CIR" on Justia Law

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The underlying dispute before the North Dakota Supreme Court in this case concerned two competing oil and gas leases. In 2006, Ritter, Laber and Associates, Inc. was part of a joint venture that was locating mineral owners and leasing their interests. Eugene and Carol Hanson entered into a lease agreement with Ritter ("EOG lease") and a "Side Letter Agreement" was executed at the same time, allowing Ritter to “exercise its option” to lease the minerals. If Ritter chose not to exercise the option, Ritter was required to “immediately release [the Hansons] from any further obligation.” The EOG Lease was not immediately recorded. In April 2007, Eugene and Carol Hanson executed a warranty deed to their son and daughter-in-law, Kelly and Denise Hanson, which included the minerals in question and was recorded. The deed reserved a 50% life estate in the minerals. In May 2007, Ritter recorded a “Memorandum of Oil and Gas Lease Option” that referenced the EOG Lease. In July 2007, Ritter recorded the EOG Lease and sent Eugene and Carol Hanson a letter stating it “has elected to exercise its option to lease.” In August 2007, Ritter’s partner sent the couple a check for roughly $37,000 “as total consideration for your Paid up Oil and Gas Lease dated December 20, 2006.” In September 2007, Ritter assigned the EOG Lease, along with a batch of other leases, to EOG. The assignment was recorded. In December 2007, Ritter obtained an oil and gas lease from Kelly and Denise Hanson listing the tracts in question ("Northern Lease"). It was recorded in January 2008 and assigned to Northern in June 2008. Northern filed suit seeking a declaration of what it owned. The court determined the transaction between Eugene and Carol Hanson and Ritter created an option to lease, Denise and Kelly Hanson had no notice of the option, and they took title to the minerals free of it. The court entered a partial judgment determining “the EOG Lease is not valid and subsisting insofar as it conflicts with the Northern Lease.” EOG Resources, Inc. appealed and Northern cross appealed, arguing the court erred when it declined to grant additional relief after its title determination. The Supreme Court held the district court erred when it quieted title in Northern. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Northern Oil & Gas v. EOG Resources, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the State Corporation Commission (SCC) that approved a petition filed by the Virginia Electric and Power Company (VEPCO) to obtain a rate-adjustment clause pursuant to Va. Code 56-585.1(A)(5)(e), holding that, contrary to the arguments brought by Applalachian Voices on appeal, the SCC applied the proper legal standard governing such requests.VEPCO made its request to recover projected costs of purchasing allowances through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade market regulating carbon dioxide emissions by electric utilities. On appeal, Appalachian Voices, a nonprofit environmental organization, argued that the SCC failed to apply the law when it approved VEPCO's petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the SCC did not misunderstand or fail o apply the legal standard governing petitions filed pursuant to Va. Code 56-585.1(A)(5)(e). View "Appalachian Voices v. State Corp. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Plaintiff discovered a crude oil leak on its property. Despite 15 years of remediation efforts, the leak persists and the cause of the leak remains unknown. Plaintiff filed a claim with Defendant insurance company under a commercial general liability policy. However, the policy contains a "total pollution exclusion endorsement" which removes coverage for various events related to "pollution."Initially, the insurer agreed to cover Plaintiff's loses, but later denied the claim. In January 2017, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in state court seeking: (1) coverage for past and future expenses it incurred in cleaning up the spill; (2) coverage for defense costs in connection with the Lawsuit; and (3) damages, penalties, and attorney fees. The insurer removed the case to federal court and the district court determined that the total pollution exclusion barred coverage.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, explaining "the absolute pollution exclusion in Liberty Mutual’s policy unambiguously excludes coverage ... related to 'clean up' or 'remov[al]' of the crude oil, as well as for any 'property damage’ which would not have occurred in whole or part but for the . . . release or escape” of the crude oil." View "Central Crude v. Liberty Mutual Ins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court ruling that North Silo Resources, LLC, the mineral lessee in this case, did not have standing to quiet title or to claim breach of its lease and that North Silo's mineral lease encumbered fifty percent of the mineral estate, holding that the district court erred as to both issues.North Silo brought an action seeking a declaratory judgment and to quiet title in certain minerals underlying property located in Laramie County and bringing a breach of lease claim against the mineral owner. The district court concluded (1) North Silo did not have standing to quiet title or to claim breach of its lease; and (2) North Silo's mineral lease encumbered only fifty percent of the mineral estate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) North Silo had standing to quiet title and to assert a claim for breach of lease; and (2) North Silo's lease encumbered 100 percent of the mineral estate. View "North Silo Resources, LLC v. Deselms" on Justia Law

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In an issue of first impression for the Louisiana Supreme Court, was what prescriptive period, if any, was applicable to a citizen suit for injunctive relief pursuant to LSA-R.S. 30:16 suit. Justin Tureau instituted a citizen suit pursuant to LSA-R.S. 30:16, alleging that defendants drilled and operated numerous oil and gas wells on his property, or on adjacent property, as well as constructed and used unlined earthen pits. Specifically, Tureau alleged that said unlined pits were either never closed, or were not closed in conformance with environmental rules and regulations, including Statewide Order 29-B, L.A.C. 43:XIX.101, et seq, which, among other things, requires the registration and closure of existing unlined oilfield pits, as well as the remediation of various enumerated contaminants in the soil to certain minimum standards. The Supreme Court held that a LSA-R.S. 30:16 citizen suit was not subject to liberative prescription. The Court further found that, insofar as the petition alleges that defendants violated conservation laws, rules, regulations, or orders, the allegations were sufficient to defeat an exception of no cause of action. The Court therefore affirmed the appeals court ruling, which overruled defendants’ exceptions of prescription, overruled the exceptions of no cause of action, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Louisiana v. Pilcher" on Justia Law

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In 2018, John Webb Pace, Jeannette Pace, and John Gregory Pace (the Paces) filed a complaint against Tiger Production Company, LLC, CCore Energy Management Company, LLC, Robert Marsh Nippes, and Harry Walters (collectively, “Tiger Production”). Each defendant filed a motion to dismiss the Paces’ claims for failure to exhaust their administrative remedies before the Mississippi Oil and Gas Board (MSOGB). After hearing oral arguments, the circuit court denied the motions to dismiss, determining that all of the Paces’ claims were based in common law and could not be remedied by the MSOGB. Tiger Production timely sought interlocutory appeal, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. After review, the Supreme Court found the circuit court was correct. The Court therefore affirmed the circuit court’s judgment and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Tiger Production Company, LLC, et al. v. Pace" on Justia Law

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)  brought an enforcement action against BP, alleging the company capitalized on the hurricane-induced chaos in commodities markets by devising a scheme to manipulate the market for natural gas. BP sought judicial review of FERC’s order finding that BP engaged in market manipulation and imposing a $20 million civil penalty.   The Fifth Circuit explained that because FERC predicated its penalty assessment on its erroneous position that it had jurisdiction over all (and not just some) of BP’s transactions, the court must remand for a reassessment of the penalty in the light of the court’s jurisdictional holding. Thus, the court granted in part and denied in part BP’s petition for review and remanded to the agency for reassessment of the penalty.   The court explained that it has rejected FERC’s expansive assertion that it has jurisdiction over any manipulative trade affecting the price of an NGA transaction. The court, however, reaffirmed the Commission’s authority over transactions directly involving natural gas in interstate commerce under the NGA. The court further determined that there was substantial evidence to support FERC’s finding that BP manipulated the market for natural gas. The court found that FERC’s reasoning in imposing a penalty was not arbitrary and capricious, though the court concluded that FERC’s reliance on an erroneous understanding of its own jurisdiction necessitates remand for recalculation of the penalty. Finally, the court held that neither separation of functions nor statute of limitations issues justify overturning the Commission’s order. View "BP America v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Cascade County's request for attorney fees and costs, interest, and unjust enrichment damages, holding that the district court did not err in determining that the provisions of Mont. Code Ann. 75-11-307(2) precluded the County's request for attorney fees, costs, interests, and unjust enrichment damages.This appeal involved a long-running dispute between the County and the Montana Petroleum Tank Release Compensation Board for remediation costs associated with petroleum contamination. The County held that four petroleum releases did not qualify for reimbursement from the Montana Petroleum Tank Release Compensation Fund. The district court reversed. The Supreme Court reversed in part. In district court on remand, the County filed a motion to the Board to pay "eligible costs." The district court denied the request. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the County's claims for attorney fees, costs, interest, and unjust enrichment damages were statutorily prohibited. View "Cascade Co. v. Petroleum Tank Release Compensation Bd." on Justia Law