Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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ExxonMobil’s 859-mile long Pegasus Pipeline transports crude oil from Patoka, Illinois to Nederland, Texas. In March 2013, it ruptured, spilling several thousand barrels of oil near Mayflower, Arkansas. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, within the U.S. Department of Transportation, conducted an investigation and concluded that ExxonMobil violated several pipeline safety regulations under the Pipeline Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 60101. Specifically, the agency found that the integrity management program (IMP) plan had not properly accounted for the risk of longitudinal seam failure and that this was a contributing factor in the Mayflower release. The agency assessed a $2.6 million civil penalty and ordered ExxonMobil to take certain actions to ensure compliance with those regulations. The Fifth Circuit vacated certain items in the order. Finding that it owed no deference to the agency’s interpretation of the regulation, the court concluded that ExxonMobil reasonably applied 49 CFR 195.452(e)(1)’s instruction to “consider” all relevant risk factors in making its pipeline susceptibility determination. The court remanded with an instruction to reevaluate the basis for the penalty associated with another violation. View "ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. v. United States Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The Oil Pollution Act (OPA), as confirmed by the Act's legislative history, grants to an OPA Responsible Party the right to receive contribution from other entities who were partially at fault for a discharge of oil. Specifically, a Responsible Party may recover from a jointly liable third party any damages it paid to claimants, including those arising out of purely economic losses. In a suit arising from a collision of two barges, the district court found both Settoon and Marquette Transportation were negligent. The Fifth Circuit held that Settoon could receive contribution from Marquette for its payment of purely economic damages, i.e., for the cleanup costs. The court also held that the district court's apportionment of fault was not clearly erroneous. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In re: Settoon Towing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Total Gas and two of its trading managers filed a declaratory judgment action against the Commission arguing that the Commission was precluded from adjudicating violations or imposing civil penalties because the Natural Gas Act (NGA) vests authority for those activities exclusively in federal district courts. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the Commission's motion to dismiss, holding that Total's suit was not ripe for review in light of controlling precedent, Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. v. FERC. In this case, instead of objecting to any actions FERC has already taken, Total seeks to preemptively challenge a FERC order that may never be issued. The court explained that all of Total's arguments were predicated on future events and were brought before FERC has even scheduled the matter for a hearing—let alone issued an order finding a NGA violation and imposing a civil penalty. View "TOTAL Gas & Power North America, Inc. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was the computation of economic losses arising out of the BP oil spill and based on the BP Settlement Agreement. The district court approved a policy adopted by the Claims Administrator (Policy 495) that consists of five methodologies to calculate claimant compensation: one Annual Variable Margin Methodology (AVMM) and four Industry-Specific Methodologies (ISMs). The Fifth Circuit held that the AVMM was consistent with the text of the Settlement Agreement, but that the four ISMs were not. The district court erred in approving the ISMs because they required the Claims Administrator to move, smooth, or otherwise reallocate revenue in violation of the Settlement Agreement. However, the ISMs, also required the Claims Administrator to match all unmatched profit and loss statements. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to the AVMM, reversed as to the ISMs, and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re: Deepwater Horizon" on Justia Law

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The most natural reading of La. R.S. 30:103.1 and 103.2 is that operators forfeit their right to contribution when they fail to send timely reports to lessees with oil and gas interests in lands upon which the operator has no lease, and that interpretation is most consistent with the statute's context and purpose. TDX filed suit seeking its share of revenues from a unit well without deduction of drilling costs because Chesapeake did not provide the requested reports. The Fifth Circuit rejected Chesapeake's contention that even if sections 103.1 and 103.2 provide a remedy for lessees, applying them in that way would violate Article III of the Louisiana constitution. The court explained that, given the liberal construction courts must give titles, a title which gave notice that an act dealt with operators' reporting requirements cannot fail because it did not specify every party to whom they must report. Finally, the court rejected Chesapeake's counterclaim asserting that TDX was required to pay a risk fee under La. R.S. 30:10(A) because TDX did not make an election regarding the risk fee under that provision. The court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded. View "TDX Energy v. Chesapeake Operating" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff purchased property on which oil and gas operations had been conducted. Plaintiff filed suit against Hess, asserting claims for damages stemming from contamination caused by the oil- and gas-related activities on the tract. The oil and gas leases expired in 1973 and plaintiff purchased the property in 2007, when all wells had been plugged and abandoned. The district court granted Hess's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the subsequent purchaser rule barred plaintiff's claims. The court explained that a clear consensus has emerged among all Louisiana appellate courts that have considered the issue, and they have held that the subsequent purchaser rule does apply to cases, like this one, involving expired mineral leases. Because this case presented no occasion to depart from precedent, the court deferred to these precedents, and held that the subsequent purchaser doctrine barred plaintiff's claims. The court noted that although the denial of a writ is not necessarily an approval of the appellate court's decision nor precedential, the Louisiana Supreme Court has had multiple opportunities to consider this issue and has repeatedly declined to do so. Finally, the court declined to certify questions to the state court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Guilbeau v. Hess Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against oil and gas companies and their insurers, claiming that the companies' dredging activities caused damage to the fisheries the fishermen used. The district court granted summary judgment for Florida Gas and Southern Natural because plaintiffs did not create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the companies' activities constituted "dredging" so as to support maritime tort claims. The district court then denied plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration. The court affirmed the district court's judgment as to Florida Gas because none of plaintiffs' evidence created a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Florida Gas participated in dredging activities. However, the court reversed the district court's judgment as to Southern Natural because plaintiffs presented new, conclusive evidence in their motion for reconsideration pertaining to Southern Natural that they were justified in not presenting earlier. In this case, plaintiffs provided three types of new evidence upon reconsideration: Southern Natural's deposition transcript; documentary evidence offered during Southern Natural's deposition; and Southern Natural's responses to requests for admission. The court disagreed with the district court's analysis, particularly as it pertained to Southern Natural's deposition transcript and responses to requests for admission. The court explained that these items were clearly probative and, if the district court would have considered the contents of Southern Natural's deposition or its admissions, plaintiffs would have defeated summary judgment as to Southern Natural. View "In Re: Louisiana Crawfish Producers" on Justia Law

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BP built and maintained the Atlantis Platform, a semi-submersible floating oil production facility located in the Gulf of Mexico. Plaintiff Keith Abbott, employed by BP in the Atlantis administrative offices, filed suit under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3730(b)(2), claiming that BP falsely certified compliance with various regulatory requirements. While DOI was investigating Atlantis, Abbott amended his complaint to add Food & Water Watch as a plaintiff and included additional claims for violations of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), 43 U.S.C. 1331 et seq. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment for BP on all claims. In this case, plaintiffs' FCA claims centered on whether engineers approved the various stages of construction of Atlantis. The court explained that these facts failed to create an issue of fact as to materiality given the particular circumstances in plaintiffs' case. In light of Universal Health Servs., Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, when the DOI decided to allow Atlantis to continue drilling after a substantial investigation into plaintiffs' allegations, that decision represented "strong evidence" that the requirements in those regulations were not material. In regard to plaintiffs' OCSLA claims, the court concluded that plaintiffs lack standing because they failed to plead individualized injuries. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Abbott v. BP Exploration & Production" on Justia 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