Louisiana Oil & Gas Law

On October 6, 2020, the Louisiana Supreme Court granted a writ application filed by UNOCAL in State of Louisiana, et al. v. Louisiana Land & Exploration Co., et al. This application sought review of the Louisiana Third Circuit’s decision that affirmed the Vermilion Parish School Board’s authority to sue on behalf of the state, rejected a prescription defense on the basis of prescription immunity under the Louisiana Constitution, and found that “environmental damage” as defined under Act 312 is sufficient to trigger a breach of contract claim. A detailed summary of the Third Circuit’s decision can be found here.
Continue Reading Louisiana Supreme Court Grants UNOCAL’s Writ Application from Third Circuit Decision Involving Prescription and Breach of Contract in Act 312 Case

A special meeting of the Louisiana State Mineral and Energy Board was held on April 29, 2020, to address the impacts of both COVID-19 and historically low oil prices on operation and maintenance of Louisiana State Leases.  The Board approved two proposed resolutions (1. Proposed Enforcement Moratorium Resolution 2. Proposed Penalty Waiver Resolution) that will assist State Lessees during these difficult times.
Continue Reading Louisiana State Mineral and Energy Board Approves Resolutions Providing Relief for State Lessees

While the long-term fallout from the recent decline in oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic remains unclear, it is clear that drilling activity has already started to decline. During this downturn in activity, mineral rights owners must remain cognizant of the maintenance activities necessary to preserve their mineral rights.  Cannisnia Plantation, LLC v. Cecil Blount Farms, LLC,[1] is the most recent decision that provides the industry with a real-life application of the rules under Louisiana law for maintaining mineral servitudes.
Continue Reading Louisiana Second Circuit Provides Guidance as to Good Faith Required When Conducting Operations Necessary to Interrupt Prescription of Mineral Servitude

Today, countries worldwide are responding to a pandemic of respiratory disease spreading from person-to-person caused by a novel coronavirus.  The disease has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).  The pandemic poses a serious public health risk, and government response has included closure of schools and businesses, declarations of emergency, and issuance of a variety of “stay home” orders—typically instructing all but “essential personnel” to remain in their residences other than to gather necessaries.  These events have dramatically impacted the world economy, and wreaked havoc on the day-to-day functions of individuals and businesses in the United States and elsewhere.  Does this pandemic and resultant disruption constitute a force majeure event under Louisiana and Texas law?


Continue Reading COVID-19 as a Force Majeure? The Texas and Louisiana Perspectives

The impacts of COVID-19 have rapidly swept across the country and the globe. Coupled with the recent decline in oil and gas prices, many operators are left scrambling in an attempt to navigate unprecedented circumstances.  With shutdowns and stay-at-home orders in place and regulatory deadlines looming, Louisiana operators are looking for guidance from regulators on how to proceed.


Continue Reading Commissioner of Conservation Issues Letter Addressing Emergency Measures to Help Louisiana Oil and Gas Industry

In May 2018, oil and gas industry defendants removed a docket of 42 cases alleging violations of Louisiana’s coastal zone management laws to federal court in the Eastern and Western Districts of Louisiana (“CZM cases”).  One year later, the Eastern District granted motions to remand filed by Plaquemines Parish and the State of Louisiana in Parish of Plaquemines v. Riverwood Production Company, et al. (“Riverwood”), No. 18-5217, 2019 WL 2271118 (E.D. La. May 28, 2019).  The Western District recently joined the Eastern District and granted similar remand motions filed by Cameron Parish and the State of Louisiana in Parish of Cameron, et al. v. Auster Oil & Gas Incorporated, et al. (“Auster”), No. 18-677, 2019 WL 4734394 (W.D. La. Sept. 26, 2019), —F. Supp. 3d—.  Although there are procedural differences between Riverwood and Auster, both district courts found no federal officer or federal question jurisdiction over the CZM cases.  The Fifth Circuit is poised to resolve these jurisdictional issues in the upcoming year. 
Continue Reading Second Remand Order in Coastal Zone Management Cases Pending Before Fifth Circuit

In a decision that could have far-reaching implications, the United States Supreme Court issued a June 10 opinion holding that California’s wage-and-hour laws do not apply to workers on oil and gas platforms located in open water on the Outer Continental Shelf. The plaintiffs in Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd. v. Newton, were offshore rig workers who filed a class action asserting that their employer violated California’s minimum wage and overtime laws by failing to pay them for stand-by time while they were on the drilling platform. Both parties agreed that the platforms were governed by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”), but they disagreed regarding whether the California’s wage-and-hour laws were incorporated into OCSLA and therefore applicable to workers on the platform.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Holds State Wage and Hour Laws are Inapplicable to Offshore Drilling Platforms

On May 28, 2019, United States District Judge Martin Feldman issued a sixty-four page Order and Reasons which granted motions to remand filed by Plaquemines Parish and the State of Louisiana in The Parish of Plaquemines v. Riverwood Production Co., et al.  That case is one of forty-two Coastal Zone Management Act (“CZMA”) cases that were removed to Federal court in May 2018.  Those cases generally allege that more than 200 oil and gas companies violated Louisiana’s State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act of 1978 (“SLCRMA”) by either failing to obtain or violating state coastal use permits.  The cases were removed to Federal court by Defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442 (the federal officer removal statute) and 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (the federal question statute) on the basis that Plaintiffs’ claims (1) implicate wartime and national emergency activities undertaken at the direction of federal officers, and (2) necessarily require resolution of substantial, disputed questions of federal law.  In response, Plaintiffs filed motions to remand.  In those motions, Plaintiffs argued that (1) the removal was not timely because Defendants had notice of the grounds alleged in the removal notice more than thirty days before the cases were removed, (2) the Defendants could not satisfy the elements of the jurisdictional test for “federal officer” removal jurisdiction, and (3) Defendants could not satisfy the test for substantial federal question jurisdiction set forth by the United States Supreme Court.


Continue Reading Motion to Remand Granted in One Coastal Zone Management Act Case But Federal Appellate Options Remain Viable

In a victory for the oil and gas industry, the Third Circuit rendered a decision rejecting attempts by the Louisiana Department of Revenue to impose severance taxes on crude oil production based on index pricing.  The Third Circuit reaffirmed that severance taxes should be based on the “gross proceeds” obtained in an arm’s length sale at the lease.  The Department had sought additional severance taxes from numerous Louisiana producers that sold crude oil in arm’s length sales at the lease. The contracts provided that the sales price of the crude oil was based on index pricing, less an amount sometimes designated as a “transportation differential” or simply as a deduction. The Department argued that this “differential” or deduction must be “disallowed” when computing severance taxes, effectively imposing severance taxes on the index pricing.  The Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals, faced with numerous cases raising this same issue, heard a “test case” involving Avanti Exploration, LLC. The BTA held that the Department’s theories were invalid, and severance tax properly was based on the actual “gross receipts” received by the producer in an arm’s length sale.  In a decision issued on April 17, 2019, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that, pursuant to the Louisiana Constitution, the severance tax statutes, and the Department regulations, in the absence of any “posted field price,” severance taxes must be based on the actual “gross receipts” received by the producer in an arm’s length sale at the lease.


Continue Reading Liskow Obtains Victory for the Oil and Gas Industry in the Louisiana Third Circuit

On Friday, March 29, 2019, the City of New Orleans filed a lawsuit in Civil District Court against eleven oil and gas companies seeking damages for alleged harm to Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. Introducing its lawsuit with statements that “New Orleans is imperiled” and its “people are in danger,” the City contends that the defendants’ failure to maintain access canals, spoil banks, and earthen pits created in the course of exploration and production has destroyed the coastal zone. The City’s allegations mirror those levied in recent years by the parishes of Plaquemines, Jefferson, and St. Bernard, among others: that the defendants’ activities constitute coastal “uses” under the Louisiana State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act (“SLCRMA”) and that they violate coastal use permits issued pursuant to that statute. The City has requested a trial by jury, from which it seeks damages, “restoration costs,” restoration of “disturbed areas,” sanctions, costs, attorneys’ fees, and/or declaratory and injunctive relief.
Continue Reading City of New Orleans Sues Oil and Gas Companies for Allegedly Damaging Coastal Wetlands