On June 29, 2021, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, held that a natural gas company’s right to condemn property for a pipeline under the Natural Gas Act includes the right to condemn state-owned property. In PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey,[1] the divided Court held that a certificate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) entitled PennEast Pipeline Company (PennEast) to use the federal government’s power of eminent domain to seize property owned by the State of New Jersey.
Continue Reading United States Supreme Court Blocks New Jersey’s Sovereign Immunity Challenge to FERC Certificate Holder’s Condemnation of State-Owned Land

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

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

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

The Texas Supreme Court recently released its anticipated opinion in Eagle Oil & Gas Co. v. TRO-X, L.P., 18-0983, 2021 WL 1045723, at *1 (Tex. Mar. 19, 2021) (“Eagle II”).  The Eagle II case is the second case that arose between TRO-X, L.P. (“TRO-X”) and Eagle Oil & Gas Co. (“Eagle”) regarding their agreement to jointly acquire and sell oil and gas leases.  In the first, Eagle Oil & Gas Co. v. TRO-X, L.P., 416 S.W.3d 137, 149 (Tex. App.—Eastland 2013, pet. denied) (“Eagle I”), TRO-X alleged that Eagle deprived TRO-X of its right to acquire certain mineral interests upon the sale of several leases in violation of their agreement.  TRO-X lost that suit on appeal when the court of appeals found that TRO-X held equitable title to those interests and thus was not deprived of them.  In Eagle II, TRO-X alleged that Eagle failed to pay TRO-X its share of income generated from production on the equitable interests.  In response, Eagle asserted several affirmative defenses—res judicata (claim preclusion), the statute of limitations, and waiver—in a motion for summary judgment.  The trial court granted the motion, the court of appeals reversed, and the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals, finding that Eagle did not conclusively establish any of its affirmative defenses.
Continue Reading Texas Supreme Court Update: TRO-X Lives to Fight Another Day in Contractual Dispute over Share of Income on Production from Equitable Interests

The Texas Supreme Court recently issued its anticipated decision in BlueStone Natural Resources II, LLC v. Randle, affirming in part and reversing in part the lower court’s ruling.  No. 19-0459, 2021 WL 936175 (Tex. Mar. 12, 2021).  The Court (1) affirmed that the lower court correctly concluded the oil and gas lease at issue explicitly resolved conflicting royalty provisions in favor of a gross-proceeds calculation; and (2) affirmed the lower court’s interpretation regarding application of the lease’s free-use clause, but remanded the case to recalculate the amount awarded to the royalty owners.
Continue Reading Texas Supreme Court Update: The Court Decides Issue of First Impression Related to the Scope of an Oil and Gas Lease’s Free-Use Clause and Further Interprets Conflicting Royalty Clause Provisions

Free-Use Clause and Further Interprets Conflicting Royalty Clause Provisions

The Texas Supreme Court recently issued its anticipated decision in BlueStone Natural Resources II, LLC v. Randle, affirming in part and reversing in part the lower court’s ruling.  No. 19-0459, 2021 WL 936175 (Tex. Mar. 12, 2021).  The Court (1) affirmed that the lower court

In Mary v. QEP Energy Company, the Western District of Louisiana rejected, for the second time in this case, Plaintiffs’ claims seeking a disgorgement of QEP’s profits.  QEP was the lessee of a mineral lease covering Plaintiffs’ property, but because it wanted to transport off-site gas across their property, QEP also obtained a pipeline

A recent decision from the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal may have lasting effects on good faith purchasers of oil. In Hill v. TMR Exploration, Inc, 2021 WL 267916, the First Circuit affirmed a district court ruling on summary judgment applying the good faith purchaser defense provision set forth in La. Civ. Code

In its recent decision in Grace Ranch, L.L.C. v. BP America Production Company, et al., No. 20-30224 (5th Cir. Feb. 24, 2021), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit addressed a question that has increasingly become a sticking point in Louisiana “legacy” cases:  whether claims brought under a Louisiana citizen suit