On June 30, 2021, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued an opinion redefining the nature of available damages and the “actual, statutorily permitted role of the jury in Act 312 remediation lawsuits.” The “LL&E II” decision finds that Act 312 charges the court, not the jury, to determine the funding needed to remediate property to government standards. If (and only if) an express contractual provision requires greater remediation than government standards, a jury may consider and award such “excess remediation” damages. State of Louisiana v. Louisiana Land and Exploration Co., 2020-00685 (La. 6/30/2021); — So. 3d — (“LL&E II”).[1]

Continue Reading Overturning 8 Years of “Palpable Error,” The Louisiana Supreme Court Limits Damages Available to Landowners in Oilfield Legacy Litigation

Perhaps the most important right granted in a solar development agreement is the right of the solar developer to use the surface of the property to evaluate, construct, and operate the solar farm.  But how can the solar developer ensure that its right to use the surface of the property is not encumbered by or inferior to the rights of others?  Or, more specifically, how can the solar developer ensure that a mineral estate owner will not be able to locate a well in the middle of its solar farm?  This issue is at the forefront of the minds of the renewables industry and was the subject of a recent Texas Court of Appeals decision.  As renewable energy projects continue to multiply, clashes between solar developers and mineral interest owners will increase as well.
Continue Reading Solar Leasing in Louisiana: The Accommodation Doctrine

In Lexington Land Development, L.L.C. v. Chevron Pipelines Company, et al., 2020-0622 (La. App. 1 Cir. 5/25/21), 2021 WL 2102932, —So. 3d—, the Louisiana First Circuit recently reaffirmed well-settled principles regarding prescription and the subsequent purchaser doctrine in Louisiana legacy cases.
Continue Reading Louisiana First Circuit Reaffirms Prescription and Subsequent Purchaser Principles

On June 9, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1284 (“HB 1284”), which was introduced along with its Senate companion, SB 450, during the state’s 87th legislative session.  HB 1284 grants the Texas Railroad Commission (“RRC”), the governmental agency that regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, sole jurisdiction over Class VI Injection Wells and carbon capture, use, and sequestration (“CCUS”) activities in Texas.
Continue Reading New Legislation Signals Strong Support for CCUS in Texas

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty of the Western District of Louisiana granted Plaintiff States’ request for an injunction to block the Biden Administration’s pause on new federal oil and gas lease sales (“Lease Pause”).  Louisiana v. Biden, Jr., Case No. 2:21-cv-00778-TAD-KK, 2021 WL 2154963 (W.D. La. June 15, 2021).
Continue Reading Federal Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction Halting the Biden Administration’s “Pause” on New Oil and Gas Lease Sales

On June 8, 2021, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a Request for Interest (RFI) to assess interest in possible commercial wind energy leasing in the Gulf of Mexico OCS. BOEM will consider the information received in response to the RFI to determine whether to schedule a competitive lease sale or issue a noncompetitive lease for any portion of the area descried in the RFI. The area covered by the RFI comprises the entire Central Planning Area and Western Planning Area of the Gulf of Mexico, excluding portions of those areas located in water depths greater than 1,300 meters.
Continue Reading BOEM Assessing Interest in Wind Energy Leasing in the Gulf of Mexico

Updated from May 18, 2021 post.

On May 17, 2021, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in the climate change litigation affecting the fossil fuel industry. In a 7-1 decision (Justice Alito recused), the Court held that an appellate court must consider all grounds for removal when an appeal is taken pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d), a provision that specifically authorizes interlocutory appeal of an order remanding a case removed pursuant to the federal officer removal statute.
Continue Reading United States Supreme Court Issues First Decision in Climate Litigation

In recent years, there has been an increase in litigation relating to the unleased owner reporting requirements contained in La. R.S. 30:103.1 and the penalty imposed in La. R.S. 30:103.2.  There are few cases interpreting these statutes. However, the existing authority recognizes that even if an operator fails to comply with such reporting requirements, an unleased owner must provide sufficient notice under La. R.S. 30:103.1 and 103.2 before the statutory penalty may be imposed. The recent non-final interlocutory ruling in Limekiln Development, Inc. v. XTO Energy, Inc.,[1] provides yet another data point in an otherwise barren area of Louisiana law about the notices required under this statutory scheme in order to properly place operators on notice and to potentially impose the penalty of La. R.S. 30:103.2.
Continue Reading United States Western District of Louisiana Issues Opinion on Notice Required Under La. R.S. 30:103.1 and 103.2 to State a Plausible Claim for Relief

Bringing to mind the infamous Hatfield-McCoy family feud, Concho Resources, Inc. v. Ellison is a classic boundary dispute between a leasehold owner and neighboring lessees with allegations of fraud and more than $1 million at stake.  See 2021 WL 1432222 (Tex. Apr. 16, 2021).  The plaintiff, Martha Ellison d/b/a Ellison Lease Operating, alleged that the defendant lessees, Samson Resources Company (“Samson”), COG Operating LLC (“Concho”), drilled and operated a well on her leasehold.  The defendants—relying on a boundary stipulation and a written acceptance of such stipulation signed by Jamie Ellison, Mrs. Ellison’s deceased husband—claimed that Mr. Ellison ratified the agreed boundary line before his passing, foreclosing any claims of trespass.  What ensued was a long legal battle with an ironic outcome.  The defendants won in the trial court; the court of appeals reversed.  The tables turned again at the Texas Supreme Court, which ultimately held that the boundary stipulation was valid and that the defendants conclusively established their ratification defense, but the case is still ongoing.
Continue Reading Texas Supreme Court Update: Boundary Dispute Between Leasehold Owner and Lessees of Adjacent Tract

On April 19, the United States Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a report (the “Report”) in response to a request from the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources regarding the oversight and decommissioning of pipelines in federal waters, which are mainly located within the Gulf of Mexico.  The Report concluded that the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”) lacks a robust oversight process (1) for ensuring the integrity of active offshore oil and gas pipelines and (2) to address the environmental risks posed by decommissioning and abandoning pipelines on the seafloor.  The GAO recommended that BSEE take actions to further develop, finalize, and implement updated pipeline regulations to address limitations in its ability to (1) ensure active pipeline integrity and (2) address safety and environmental risks associated with pipeline decommissioning and abandonment.
Continue Reading Federal Agency Recommends Updated Regulations for Pipeline Monitoring, Decommissioning, and Abandonment