In Mays v. Chevron Pipe Line Co., 2020 WL 4432025, a three-judge panel of the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal held on August 3, 2020, that the Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act may apply to an injury in state territorial waters if there is a substantial nexus between an employee’s injury and his employer’s, both direct and statutory, extractive operations on the Outer Continental Shelf.
Continue Reading U.S. Fifth Circuit Clarifies “Substantial Nexus” Test for LHWCA

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

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of denials of applications to decommission offshore pipelines in place in a departure from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (“BSEE”) longstanding practices.  The denials are accompanied by an order from BSEE to decommission the pipelines by removal, with reference to Notice to Lessees (“NTL”) 2009-G04 and/or “significant sediment resource areas” (“SSRA”) in the vicinity of the pipeline.  BSEE is also issuing orders to companies to remove pipelines located in SSRAs that were previously decommissioned in place.


Continue Reading Federal Offshore Pipeline Decommissioning in BOEM Significant Sediment Resource Areas

The Texas Supreme Court issued an opinion today in Energy Transfer Partners, L.P v. Enterprise Products Partners, L.P., a case previously featured on the Blog.  This case began in 2011 when ETP and Enterprise explored the possibility of partnering to modify and extend, or construct anew, a pipeline to transport oil southbound from Cushing, Oklahoma.


Continue Reading Texas Supreme Court Decides Energy Transfer Partners v. Enterprise Products

In a stark reminder of the sanctity of Coast Guard investigations, and the consequences of impeding such investigations, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently took action against a maritime employer for allegedly retaliating against a seaman who cooperated with the Coast Guard in connection with its investigation of a maritime casualty.  On October 20, 2017, Bouchard Transportation’s ATB BUSTER BOUCHARD/B. NO. 255 suffered an explosion and fire while transporting roughly 2,000 barrels of oil off Port Aransas, Texas.  Two crewmembers perished as a result of the casualty.  The brother of one of the deceased crewmembers, who also happened to be a Bouchard Transportation employee, cooperated with the Coast Guard in the ensuing investigation.  Three months later, the surviving brother was terminated without explanation.  OSHA found the termination constituted a retaliatory discharge in violation of the Seaman’s Protection Act (46 U.S.C. §2114) (the “SPA”).  In broad terms, the SPA prohibits maritime employers from terminating or discriminating against seamen who cooperate with Coast Guard, Department of Labor or National Transportation Safety Board investigations.  The obvious intent of the SPA is to guaranty “that, when seamen provide information of dangerous situations to the Coast Guard, they will be free from the “debilitating threat of employment reprisals for publicly asserting company violations” of maritime statutes or regulations.”  Gaffney v. Riverboat Services of Indiana, Inc., 451 F.3d 424, 444 (7th Cir. 2006).  In 2010, Congress empowered OSHA to administer claims arising under the SPA.


Continue Reading OSHA Awards Damages for Retaliatory Discharge of Jones Act Seaman in Violation of Seaman’s Protection Act

Last week the Texas Supreme Court granted review in Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. v. Enterprise Products Partners, L.P., a case concerning Texas partnership law.  Energy Transfer Partners has garnered significant amicus support on both sides of the “v.” and has been closely followed by the energy industry.


Continue Reading Texas Supreme Court to Review $500 Million Verdict in Case Involving Formation of Partnership to Construct Crude Oil Pipeline

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

On November 8, the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals added to the relatively sparse body of appellate rulings in pipeline expropriation matters. In an unpublished opinion, the court affirmed that landowners whose property is expropriated must prove their entitlement to severance damages to a “legal certainty.”

Under Louisiana law, owners of expropriated property can seek just compensation for the property taken. In addition, landowners can seek “severance damages” above and beyond the value of the expropriated property when the landowner has been deprived of the full potential of future development of the property due to the taking.

In Enterprise Products Operating, LLC, v. Southwood Terminal, L.L.C., Enterprise expropriated part of a large tract of undeveloped riverfront property for an NGL pipeline. The pipeline would then cross the Mississippi River, burrowing more than 100 feet below the riverbed.

At trial, the landowner sought millions in severance damages, arguing that the pipeline’s presence beneath the batture of the property (the land between the low-water level of the river and the levee) destroyed the property’s potential future use an industrial site with a dock to provide river access. However, Enterprise presented engineering testimony that the pipeline would not interfere with any potential dock.
Continue Reading Expropriation ruling explains landowner’s burden to prove severance damages to a “legal certainty.”

In a decision announced this week, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality and method of compensation for the expropriation by a governmental body of property owned by an ongoing commercial venture.   In St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District v. Violet Dock Port, Inc., LLC, the St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District (the “Port”), a government-owned public cargo facility, sought to expand its operations along the Mississippi River. The Port unsuccessfully negotiated the purchase of 75 acres of property owned by Violet Dock Port, Inc., LLC (the “Landowner”) which utilized the property to layberth and service oceangoing ships for the United States Navy.  The Port subsequently expropriated the property under the quick-take expropriation provisions of LA. R.S. 19:141, et seq., for a purported compensation of $16 million. 
Continue Reading Louisiana Supreme Court Upholds Expropriation of Commercial Venture

In Chauvin v. Shell Oil Company, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment to defendants on Plaintiffs’ trespass action.  In doing so, the Fifth Circuit made clear that to succeed on a trespass claim when the contracts at issue are ambiguous, parole evidence from the plaintiffs’ experts and the plaintiffs themselves should be consistent with ownership.
Continue Reading (Plaintiffs Claiming) Trespass Beware