Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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Great Lakes filed suit against ESML for breach of contract. ESML later filed a motion to dismiss based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, but the district court denied the motion. The case proceeded to trial and judgment was entered for Great Lakes. The court agreed with the district court that the Natural Gas Act (NGA), 15 U.S.C. 717u, does not create an express cause of action under which Great Lakes may sue for breach of contract; the NGA also does not create an implied cause of action where there is no indication of legislative intent to create a federal cause of action displacing traditional state law breach of contract causes of action; and assuming that the district court correctly held that federal issues were “necessarily raised” and “actually disputed,” the court concluded that the federal issues in this case are not “substantial,” and the federal courts cannot exercise federal question jurisdiction “without disturbing any congressionally approved balance of federal and state judicial responsibilities.” Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. View "Great Lakes Gas Transmission v. Essar Steel Minnesota LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the state claiming, inter alia, that the prohibitions in the Minnesota Next Generation Energy Act, Minn. Stat. 216H.03, subd. 3(2) and (3), violate the Commerce Clause. The statute is intended to reduce statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions by prohibiting utilities from meeting Minnesota demand with electricity generated by a new large energy facility in a transaction that will contribute to or increase statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions. The district court granted plaintiffs summary judgment and a permanent injunction. The court concluded that plaintiffs meet the Article III standing requirement where Plaintiff Basin can demonstrate a probable economic injury resulting from governmental action; plaintiffs' claims are ripe for judicial review because the issues are predominately legal, and the challenged prohibitions are currently causing hardship by interfering with the ability of plaintiffs such as Basin to plan, invest in, and conduct their business operations; the district court did not err in declining to abstain under Railroad Commission of Texas v. Pullman Co.; the district court correctly concluded that the challenged prohibitions have the practical effect of controlling conduct beyond the boundaries of Minnesota; the statute has extraterritorial reach and will impose Minnesota’s policy of increasing the cost of electricity by restricting use of the currently most cost-efficient sources of generating capacity from prohibited sources anywhere in the grid, absent Minnesota regulatory approval or the dismantling of the federally encouraged and approved MISO transmission system; Minnesota may not do this without the approval of Congress; and the district court did not err by enjoining the defendant state officials from enforcing the prohibitions. The court dismissed plaintiffs' cross-appeal as moot. View "North Dakota v. Heydinger" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, individually and as surviving spouse of Arlie Walls, filed suit against Petrohawk alleging claims related to an oil and gas lease. The court concluded that Petrohawk's failure to pay royalties in a timely manner did not substantially defeat the purpose of the contract and therefore does not constitute a material breach of contract; plaintiff waived the breaches with respect to all of the assignments except the Petrohawk-Exxon assignment; the district court did not err in concluding that plaintiff unreasonably withheld consent to the assignment from Petrohawk to Exxon; the language of the lease does not support plaintiff's argument that the lease holds Petrohawk liable for breaches of previous assignees, specifically Alta; and plaintiff is not entitled to statutory penalties because she failed to make factual allegations of Petrohawk's willfulness or bad faith. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Walls v. Petrohawk Properties, LP" on Justia Law

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This appeal stems from a dispute regarding the continued validity of an oil and gas lease covering land in Williams County, North Dakota. Appellants challenged the district court's grant of Northern Oil's and Limsco's motions for summary judgment. The court found Northern Oil and Limsco’s interpretation more persuasive and thus adopted their position that the Pugh clause in the lease divides the lease at PLSS-section boundaries. The court agreed with the district court that the lease remains valid because production from other areas in Section 3 maintains the lease as to the entire section and affirmed the judgment. View "Northern Oil and Gas, Inc. v. Moen" on Justia Law

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The Swecker farm in Iowa has a wind generator and is a qualifying power production facility certified by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The Sweckers sell surplus electric energy to Midland Power Cooperative at a rate established by the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), implementing FERC rules and regulations, 16 U.S.C. 824a-3(f). For many years, the Sweckers and Midland have litigated rate disputes. The district court dismissed their current suit against Midland and its primary supplier, Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO), seeking declaratory and injunctive relief requiring Midland “to purchase available energy from plaintiffs . . . at Midland’s full avoided cost, rather than CIPCO’s avoided cost.” The Eighth Circuit affirmed. FERC’s interpretation is controlling and forecloses the contrary interpretation of 18 C.F.R. 292.303(d) urged by the Sweckers. View "Swecker v. Midland Power Coop." on Justia Law

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Phillips owns an underground petroleum pipeline, built in 1930. A 1963 report stated that 100 barrels of leaded gasoline had leaked beneath West Alton, Missouri, and not been recovered. The leak was repaired. In 2002 a West Alton resident noticed a petroleum odor in his home. He contacted Phillips, which investigated. West Alton has no municipal water. Testing on the owner’s well disclosed benzene, a gasoline additive and carcinogen, at three times allowable limits. Phillips purchased the property, and two nearby homes and, with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), established a remediation plan. In 2006 Phillips demolished the homes, removed 4000 cubic yards of soil, and set up wells to monitor for chemicals of concern (COCs). Phillips volunteered to provide precautionary bottled water to 50 residents near the site. Sampling of other wells had not shown COCs above allowable limits. MDNR requested that Phillips test the wells of each family receiving bottled water before ending its water supply program. Phillips chose instead to continue distributing bottled water. Most of the recipients are within 0.25 miles of the contamination site. In 2011 nearby landowners sued, alleging nuisance, on the theory that possible pockets of contamination still exist. The Eighth Circuit reversed class certification, noting the absence of evidence showing class members were commonly affected by contamination, View "Smith v. ConocoPhillips Pipe Line Co." on Justia Law

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Knickel approached Macquarie Bank about a loan to develop North Dakota oil and gas leases, providing confidential information about leased acreage that he had assembled over 10 years. Macquarie entered agreements with Knickel’s companies, LexMac and Novus. His other company, Lexar was not a party. Macquarie acquired a mortgage lien and perfected security interest in the leases and in their extensions or renewals. Royalties and confidential information—reserves reports on the acreage, seismic data, and geologic maps—also served as collateral. The companies defaulted. Because of the lack of development or production, many leases were set to expire. Knickel claims he agreed to renew only leases that included automatic extensions. Macquarie claims that Knickel promised to renew all leases serving as collateral in the names of LexMac and Novus. Upon the expiration of the leases without automatic extensions, Knickel entered into new leases in the name of Lexar, for development with LexMac and Novus, since they owned the confidential information. A foreclosure judgment entered, declaring that LexMac and Novus’s interest in the leases would be sold to satisfy the debt: $5,296,252.29,. Marquarie filed notice of lis pendens on Lexar’s leases, leased adjoining acreage, used the confidential information to find a buyer, and sold the leases at a profit of about $7,000,000. Marquarie filed claims of deceit, fraud, and promissory estoppel, and alleged that the corporate veil of the companies should be pierced to hold Knickel personally liable. The defendants counterclaimed misappropriation of trade secrets and unlawful interference with business. The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment on all but one claim and judgment that Macquarie had misappropriated trade secrets. View "Macquarie Bank Ltd. v. Knickel" on Justia Law

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Lion Oil, a small Arkansas refinery, petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency for an exemption from the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard program, 42 U.S.C. 7545(o), under which refineries must blend their share of renewable fuel or buy credits from those who exceed blending requirements. Congress exempted “small” refineries—75,000 barrels of crude oil or less per day—from RFS obligations until 2011. The exemption can be extended. Lion cited disruption to a key supply pipeline and argued that RFS compliance would cause disproportionate economic hardship. Before EPA considered the petition, the Department of Energy determined that Lion Oil did not score high enough on the viability index to show disproportionate economic hardship. EPA “independently” analyzed the pipeline disruption and Lion Oil’s blending capacity, projected RFS-compliance costs, and financial position. EPA denied the petition. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, first holding that it could consider the matter because EPA had not “published” a determination of nationwide scope or effect. The denial was not arbitrary or inadequately explained. View "Lion Oil Co. v. Envt'l Protction Agency" on Justia Law

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The City of Osceola purchases wholesale energy from Entergy Arkansas under an agreement filed with and approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Osceola sued Entergy in Arkansas state court, seeking reimbursement for charges allegedly in violation of their agreement. Entergy removed the case to the federal district court which denied Osceola's motion to remand, granted summary judgment to the defendant energy providers, and dismissed the case. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, finding that FERC has primary jurisdiction to determine the appropriate treatment of the bandwidth payments under the parties' agreement. View "City of Osceola v. Entergy Ark., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs own mineral interests in Chalybeat Springs and granted 21 oil and gas leases based on those interests. EnerQuest and BP America are the lessees. The property interests in Chalybeat, including the leases at issue, are subject to a Unit Agreement that establishes how the oil and gas extracted from certain formations will be divided and provides for a unit operator with the exclusive right to develop the oil and gas resources described in the Unit Agreement. In the late 1990s, PetroQuest became the operator of the Chalybeat Unit. Unhappy with the level of extraction, lessors filed suit against EnerQuest and BP, seeking partial cancellation of the oil and gas leases on the ground that EnerQuest and BP breached implied covenants in the leases to develop the oil and gas minerals. The district court granted the companies’ motion for summary judgment, reasoning that the lessors had not provided EnerQuest and BP with required notice and opportunity to cure a breach. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the plaintiffs’ earlier effort to dissolve the Chalybeat Unit constituted notice. View "Lewis v. Enerquest Oil & Gas, LLC" on Justia Law