Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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In 2010, The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) issued a prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) construction permit to Sunflower Electric Power Corporation that authorized Sunflower to build a coal-fired electric generating unit at a site where Sunflower already operates a coal-fired station. In Sierra Club I, the Supreme Court held that KDHE had failed to comply with the federal Clean Air Act and remanded the permit to KDHE. On remand, KDHE issued an addendum to the 2010 permit. Sierra Club sought judicial review of that action, arguing, inter alia, that KDHE was required to conduct an entirely new permitting process rather than simply crafting an addendum to the 2010 permit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) KDHE did not err in adding an addendum to the 2010 permit; and (2) Sierra Club failed to establish any other basis for invalidating Sunflower’s PSD permit. View "Sierra Club v. Mosier" on Justia Law

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The lessee-operator of twenty-five oil and gas leases sold its raw natural gas at the wellhead to third parties, who processed the gas before it entered the interstate pipeline system. The price the operator was paid, and the price upon which royalties were calculated, was based on a formula that starts with the price the third parties received for the processed gas and then deducts certain costs incurred or adjustments made. At issue here was whether the operator may take into account the deductions and adjustments identified in the third-party purchase agreements when calculating royalties. The class of royalty owners in this case argued that post-production, post-sale expenses necessary to transform natural gas into the quality required for interstate pipeline transmission were attributable solely to the operator as part of the operator’s sole responsibility to make the gas marketable. The district court grand summary judgment in favor of the class for an as-yet undetermined amount of unpaid royalties. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the class was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the duty to make gas marketable is satisfied when the operator delivers the gas to the purchaser in a condition acceptable to the purchaser in a good faith transaction. View "Fawcett v. Oil Producers, Inc. of Kan." on Justia Law

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In 1969, Grantors and an oil company entered into a continuing oil and gas lease covering Grantors’ property. Less than seven months later, Grantors entered into a mineral deed with Grantee covering the same property. The mineral deed had a primary term of fifteen years. In 2012, Plaintiffs, the sole heirs of Grantors, filed a declaratory judgment seeking a declaration that the royalty interest held by Defendants, the sole heirs of Grantee, had terminated. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that because the mineral deed stated that it was subject to the terms of the continuing oil and gas lease and because Grantor was a party to both the lease and the mineral deed, the parties intended that they be read together. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the “subject to” clause in the mineral deed did not incorporate the provisions of the lease; and (2) therefore, Defendants’ mineral interest did not continue past its fifteen-year term. View "Netahla v. Netahla" on Justia Law

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Prairie Land Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Prairie Land), which purchases wholesale electricity from various suppliers and distributes that electricity to retail customers, entered into temporally overlapping, long-term all-requirements contracts with two different wholesale electricity suppliers, Sunflower Electric Power Corporation (Sunflower) and Kansas Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. (KEPCo). After a dispute arose regarding which supplier had the right to serve a certain pumping station delivery point, Prairie Land filed a petition for declaratory judgment asking the district court to determine which supplier was entitled to serve the new delivery point. The district court ruled in favor of Sunflower, which entered into the first all-requirements contract with Prairie Land. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ decision and affirmed the district court’s judgment, holding that under the facts of this case, Prairie Land must meet its obligations under its contract with Sunflower, the first supplier, before it may comply with any obligations under its contract with KEPCo, the second supplier. View "Prairie Land Elec. Coop., Inc. v. Kan. Elec. Power Coop., Inc." on Justia Law

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Thoroughbred Associates drilled a gas well (Well) in Comanche County. Thoroughbred subsequently acquired leases of land near the Well and created a unit called the Thoroughbred-Rietzke Unit (Rietzke Unit). Defendants became successors-in-interest to a lease (OXY Lease) Thoroughbred entered into for oil and gas underlying a tract near the Well. The parties disagreed, however, about whether the Well was draining the Rietzke Unit. Thoroughbred stopped submitting royalty payments to Defendants accruing from the Rietzke Unit. Thoroughbred subsequently filed a complaint for a declaratory judgment that it had been mistaken when it included the OXY Lease in the Rietzke Unit. Defendants counterclaimed. The district court concluded (1) Defendants failed to prove that any drainage of the leased lands occurred; and (2) the Lease was properly included in the Rietzke Unit. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Defendants failed to prove their drainage claim; and (2) the court of appeals erroneously granted summary judgment to Defendants on their claim that the Lease should be included in the Rietzke Unit. View "Thoroughbred Assocs., LLC v. Kansas City Royalty Co., LLC " on Justia Law

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Northern Natural Gas Company (Northern) claimed several gas and energy companies (collectively, ONEOK and Lumen) wrongfully converted natural gas by purchasing gas from two producers (collectively, Nash and L.D.), which operated wells on land near Northern's underground natural gas storage field. ONEOK and Lumen filed third-party identification claims against Nash and L.D. Nash and L.D., in turn, asserted various claims against Northern, ONEOK, and Lumen. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Nash and L.D. on the third-party identification claims, concluding that Northern lost title to its migrating storage gas, and thus, Nash and L.D. had title to the gas produced by wells located beyond property adjoining the certificated boundaries of Northern's gas storage field and purchased by ONEOK and Lumen. Before the court journalized its order, Northern expanded the certificated boundaries of its storage field, bringing the wells at issue within the expansion area. The district court denied Northern's motion to modify its summary judgment ruling but limited its ruling to matters prior to June 2, 2010. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that by application of the rule of capture, Nash and L.D. possessed title to the gas produced from their wells before June 2, 2010. View "N. Natural Gas Co. v. ONEOK Field Servs. Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in this case were royalty owners entitled to receive a share of the production of natural gas in a gas field. Plaintiffs brought a class action against Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (APC) and its affiliates challenging the manner in which APC was paying royalties on natural gas production under the respective oil and gas leases. Timothy Coulter represented the plaintiff class and negotiated a settlement agreement. More than 6,000 members made up the settlement class, one of whom was Stan Boles. Boles objected to the amended class certification and the class settlement agreement negotiated by Coulter. The district court approved the settlement despite Boles' objection. Boles appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding the district court did not abuse its discretion in assessing the adequacy of the class representation or the character of the settlement agreement. View "Coulter v. Anadarko Petroleum Corp." on Justia Law

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The Board of County Commissioners of Wabaunsee County amended its zoning regulations to permit small wind energy conversion systems. The regulations, however, prohibited the placement of commercial wind energy conversion systems in the county. Plaintiffs and Intervenors, landowners and owners of wind rights in the county, sued the Board, seeking a judicial declaration that the Board's action be null and void. The district court granted the Board's various dispositive motions. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding, inter alia, that (1) the district court did not err by disposing of a Takings Clause claim as a matter of law, and because there was no taking, the court did not err in also disposing of Intervenors' related takings-based claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and their claim for inverse condemnation; (2) the district court did not err in dismissing a Commerce Clause claim as a matter of law, but a claim alleging the Board's decision placed incidental burdens on interstate commerce that outweighed the benefits was remanded for analysis under Pike v. Bruce Church; and (3) because Intervenors also made a burden-based claim under the Commerce Clause in their 42 U.S.C. 1983 contention, that specific claim was also remanded. View "Zimmerman v. Bd. of County Comm'rs" on Justia Law

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Pursuant to an oil and gas lease with Appellee Trees Oil Company (Trees), Appellant Arthur Hockett had a 1/8-royalty interest in the production from a Haskell County well that produced natural gas. Trees operated the well, and sold the gas produced to âfirst purchasers.â Before paying Trees for production, the first purchasers deduct taxes and fees imposed by the state. Trees then pays Appellant 1/8 of the net sales proceeds. In 2009, Appellant filed a complaint against Trees, seeking recovery of the amount in tax deducted from the sales proceeds from the first purchasers. Trees moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that it could not be held liable for complying with state law by paying the sales taxes. The district court held that the taxes and fees were to be imposed on all owners in the venture, including royalty owners. Appellant appealed. The Supreme Court found that state law does not require royalty owners pay the oil and gas taxes and fees if they do not operate the well. The fees withheld by the first purchaser are an expense attributable to the oil company as the well operator. In computing Appellantâs royalties, Trees was not permitted to deduct the amount of its fees expenses from the gross sale price under contract with the first purchaser. Accordingly, the Court held that the district court erred in ruling in favor of Trees. The Court remanded the remanded the case for further proceedings.