Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of OGT in an action brought by the oil field construction company to quiet a pipeline title based on defendant's ineligibility to claim a lien under North Dakota Century Code 35-24-04. The court agreed with the district court that defendant was an employee, rather than an independent contractor, and that section 35-24-04 does not confer lien rights upon employees. In this case, the factors that indicated that defendant was an employee include, among other things, that defendant earned a weekly salary that OGT paid him regardless of the number of hours, amount of work, or number of projects he completed; defendant completed a W-4 to indicate his tax withholdings; OGT withheld and paid employment taxes on defendant's wages and reported his income to him and the IRS on a Form W-2; OGT offered defendant regular employment benefits; and he worked full-time for OGT and no one else. View "Oil & Gas Transfer LLC v. Karr" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant in an action alleging claims of negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and denial of equitable relief. The court held that the district court did not err in granting defendant's summary judgment motion on the negligent misrepresentation claim because Lonesome Dove had not alleged any specific damage from the misrepresentation; the district court did not err by granting summary judgment as to the unjust enrichment claim because Lonesome Dove failed to present specific facts to illustrate any benefit to defendant other than the list of things in the contract; the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Lonesome Dove equitable relief where Lonesome Dove had an adequate remedy at law in this case; and the district court did not err by denying Lonesome Dove's motion for a new trial where the verdict was not against the clear weight of the evidence. View "Lonesome Dove Petroleum, Inc. v. Holt" on Justia Law

by
Smoky II filed a breach of contract suit against the city when it did not receive payment from the city on invoices related to curtailed energy (wind energy that was not actually produced because the producer was directed to reduce production). The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that the parties' contract provided that the city could be billed for economic curtailments; the district court did not err in holding the city liable for certain charges that it found to be "timely-billed;" the plain language of the Renewable Energy Purchase Agreement (REPA) supported the district court's interpretation of the meaning of "Emergency Curtailment;" the trial evidence clearly supported the district court's rejection of the city's theory regarding over-allocation of energy; and Smoky II waived the issue of substantial performance. View "Smoky Hills Wind Project II v. Independence, Missouri" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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