Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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The Board filed suit in Louisiana state court against various companies involved in the exploration for and production of oil reserves off the southern coast of the United States, alleging that defendants' exploration activities caused infrastructural and ecological damage to coastal lands overseen by the Board that increased the risk of flooding due to storm surges and necessitated costly flood protection measures. The district court denied the Board's motion to remand after removal to federal court, and then granted defendants' motion for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. The court concluded that the Board's negligence and nuisance claims necessarily raised federal issues sufficient to justify federal jurisdiction and thus the court did not reach the remaining issues. The court also concluded that the district court properly dismissed the negligence claim because the Board failed to establish that defendants breached a duty of care to it under the facts alleged, the Board's strict liability claim failed because the Board did not state a claim that defendants owed it a duty of care; the district court properly dismissed the servitude of drain claim; and the Board failed to state a claim for nuisance. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Board of Commissioners of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co." on Justia Law

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This case concerns BP's obligations under the Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Settlement Agreement. Appellant is a company that filed Business Economic Loss claims under the settlement agreement on behalf of five of its stores. The CSSP and the Appeal Panel determined that the stores were not tourism businesses and denied the claims for failure to satisfy the causation requirement. In this consolidated appeal, appellant challenged the district court's denial of discretionary review. The court concluded that there was no abuse in discretion in classifying the stores under North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code 441310 as automotive parts and accessories stores. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Claimant ID 100212278 v. BP Exploration & Production" on Justia Law

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Enable, operator of a federally regulated natural gas storage facility, filed suit against Nadel, alleging that a natural gas well operated by Nadel was producing gas from this storage facility. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court joined its sister circuits and declined to extend the federal exclusivity provision of the Natural Gas Act (NGA), 15 U.S.C. 717 et seq., to cover claims of interference with duties under the NGA against defendants who have no statutory duties of their own under the Act. Therefore, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear the underlying suit and affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint. The court denied as moot Enable's motion to disqualify Nadel's counsel. View "Enable MS River Transmission v. Nadel & Gussman" on Justia Law

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This case concerns a scheme of planning, cost allocation, and regulation imposed by FERC on EP Electric and the Intervenor electricity providers. EP Electric appealed from three decisions in which the Commission reviewed and required revisions to certain compliance filing that EP Electric and other utilities filed with FERC pursuant to Order No. 1000. Order No. 1000 is FERC’s rule regulating regional transmission planning and cost allocation by public utilities, also known as “jurisdictional utilities.” The court concluded that the Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its mandates regarding the role of non-jurisdictional utilities in cost allocation and regional planning in the WestConnect region. Therefore, the court granted the petitions for review in part. The court vacated the Commission's Compliance Orders on these issues for further explanation and proceedings. The court denied review or dismissed in all other respects because EP Electric's remaining challenges to FERC's actions fail. View "El Paso Electric Co. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and the putative class filed suit claiming to be post-foreclosure owners of disputed oil and gas interests. After the case was removed by defendants under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2), plaintiff moved to remand to state court under the local controversy exception. The district court granted the motion and remanded. Although plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence to show that, under the narrow definition, the proposed class consists of over two-thirds Texas citizens, the court concluded that plaintiff has failed to present any evidence about those owners who purchased mineral interests post-foreclosure but have since sold or otherwise relinquished their interests. The court also concluded that plaintiff has not proven that the exception for local controversies applies because the class that the petition at the time of removal sought to have certified is not clearly limited to current owners, and there is inadequate evidence of the citizenship of the interim owners in the broader class. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Arbuckle Mountain Ranch v. Chesapeake Energy" on Justia Law

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This dispute arose under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, Pub. L. No. 95-617, 92 Stat. 3117. At issue is whether the district court abused its discretion when it entered an order indefinitely staying this proceeding to allow the Commission to act on an administrative complaint filed by Occidental against a non-party to this action, which largely concerns the same issues. The court concluded that, under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction, a district court with subject matter jurisdiction may, under appropriate circumstances, defer to another forum, such as an administrative agency, which also has non-exclusive jurisdiction, based on its determination that the benefits of obtaining aid from that other forum outweigh the need for expeditious litigation. The court concluded that it has appellate jurisdiction under Hines v. D'Artois because Hines remains good law and this case is sufficiently close to the facts of Hines to give the court appellate jurisdiction under the “effectively out of court” rule. The court also concluded that, given that all parties agree it could take years for FERC to resolve the Integration Complaint, a deadline will give FERC a reasonable opportunity to act without the costs inherent in an indefinite delay. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's stay order and remanded with instructions. View "Occidental Chemical Corp. v. Louisiana Public Service Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, holders of BP securities, filed suit against BP and two of its executives, alleging that BP made two distinct series of misrepresentations in violation of federal securities law: one series regarding its pre-Deepwater Horizon spill safety procedures, and one regarding the flow rate of the oil after the spill occurred. The district court only certified the post-spill class. Both sides appealed. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in certifying the Post-Spill class where the district court determined that plaintiffs had established a model of damages consistent with their liability case and capable of measurement across the class, as required by the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to that issue. The court also affirmed the district court's decision not to certify the Pre-Spill class where plaintiffs’ materialization-of-the-risk theory cannot support class certification. View "Ludlow v. BP" on Justia Law

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After inspectors found 130,000 barrels of oil floating atop uncovered equalization tanks, CITGO was convicted of multiple violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7413 and 40 C.F.R. 60.690 et seq. (Subpart QQQ), and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA), 16 U.S.C. 703. On appeal, CITGO challenged the district court's CAA convictions, arguing, inter alia, that the district court erroneously instructed the jury about the scope of a regulation concerning "oil-water separators." The court concluded that Subpart QQQ’s text, the overall regulatory scheme, and its promulgation history point to the inescapable conclusion that an equalization tank is not an “oil-water separator.” Because the district court misstated the scope of the regulation, its jury instruction was erroneous and this omission affected the outcome. Therefore, CITGO’s CAA convictions must be reversed. The court also concluded that CITGO's MBTA convictions must be reversed because the court agreed with the Eighth and Ninth circuits that a “taking” is limited to deliberate acts done directly and intentionally to migratory birds. The court's conclusion is based on the statute’s text, its common law origin, a comparison with other relevant statutes, and rejection of the argument that strict liability can change the nature of the necessary illegal act. View "United States v. CITGO Petroleum Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a crew member aboard a supply vessel that was mud-roped to the Deepwater Horizon and was off-loading drilling mud on the night of the 2010 blowout, filed suit claiming that he sustained physical injuries when the explosion rocked the vessel and threw him against a bulkhead. On appeal, BP challenged the district court's judgment in favor of plaintiff where the district court, over BP's objection, enforced a putative settlement agreement against BP in plaintiff's favor. The court held that the parties formed a binding settlement agreement; the district court correctly excused plaintiff’s failure to sign the release document where BP's refusal to send plaintiff the release excused that failure; but the district court should have held an evidentiary hearing to determine whether plaintiff fraudulently induced BP into entering the settlement agreement. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court’s order in part, but vacated the judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Young v. BP" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated cases, BP appealed three settlement awards, related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, that it paid to nonprofits through its Court-Supervised Settlement Program. On appeal, BP argued that the Claims Administrator improperly interpreted the Settlement Agreement. The awards were based on the Claims Administrator’s determination that nonprofits may count donations and grants as “revenue” under the terms of the Agreement (the Nonprofit-Revenue Interpretation). As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that it has jurisdiction over this appeal under the collateral order doctrine and that BP's appeals were timely. On the merits, the court concluded that BP failed to show that the Nonprofit-Revenue Interpretation violates the plain language of the Agreement. The court held that the Nonprofit-Revenue Interpretation does not alter the class definition in violation of Rule 23 or Article III. Finally, the court concluded that there was no abuse of discretion in the district court's denial of review of the individual awards. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In Re: Deepwater Horizon" on Justia Law