For nearly three years, unit operators in Louisiana have waited to see whether the Western District of Louisiana would change course or double down on its March 2019 decision in Johnson v. Chesapeake. In the original Johnson decision, the district court sent shockwaves across the oil and gas industry in Louisiana by finding that post-production costs were not properly deductible against proceeds owed to unleased mineral owners. In the wake of that decision, at least two putative class actions were filed against the largest producers in the Haynesville Shale, and operators have been flooded with demands and suits from unleased owners who relied on Johnson to contest the validity of post-production cost decisions from unleased interests.
Continue Reading Long-Awaited Victory on the Proper Deductibility of Post-Production Costs from Unleased Mineral Owners – The Western District of Louisiana Reverses Course in Johnson v. Chesapeake and Self v. BPX

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

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

On March 21, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana held that a unit operator may not recover post-production costs from an unleased mineral owner’s share of production proceeds in Allen Johnson, et al. v. Chesapeake Louisiana, LP.[1]  The dispute in Johnson involved a group of unleased mineral owners (“UMOs”) who filed suit against a unit operator for deducting a litany of post-production costs against their share of production proceeds from an oil and gas unit in the Haynesville Shale.[2]

The UMOs argued that La. R.S. 30:10 governed whether a unit operator may deduct post-production costs against UMO’s share of production proceeds.[3] The argument, however, was one of exclusion. The UMOs argued that La. R.S. 30:10 contains the exclusive list of any costs that could be properly charged against a UMO’s share of production proceeds. Therefore, because post-production costs were not expressly listed in La. R.S. 30:10(A)(3), the UMOs argued that such expenses were not recoverable from a UMO’s share of production.[4] In opposition, the unit operator contended that La. R.S. 30:10 was inapplicable to the case because the costs outlined in the statute comprised only pre-production and production costs. The operator argued the statute was never intended to address  post-production costs.[5] As a result, the unit operator claimed that the statute did not forbid deductions for post-production costs against a UMO, but instead those costs were properly authorized under the general principles of unjust enrichment and co-ownership.[6]

Continue Reading Western District of Louisiana Holds that Unit Operators May Not Recover Post-Production Costs from an Unleased Mineral Owner’s Share of Production Proceeds