Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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The parties in this case disputed title to certain mineral interests underlying certain property. The dispute arose out of a 1911 Laramie County tax assessment against Union Pacific’s mineral interests in the property and the county’s subsequent tax sale and issuance of a tax deed for the property. Family Tree Corporation, which claimed title to portions of the minerals, filed a complaint for quiet title and declaratory judgment against Three Sisters LLC, which also claimed an ownership in the minerals, and Anardarko Land Corporation. The district court quieted title to Family Tree based upon the 1912 tax sale. Anadarko appealed, arguing that the 1911 tax assessment against the minerals was unconstitutional, and therefore, the resulting tax sale and deed were void. The Supreme Court affirmed after drawing the line between a tax assessment defect that will render a tax deed void and one that will render the tax deed viable, holding (1) the error in Laramie County’s tax assessment against the minerals at issue rendered the resulting tax deed voidable, not void; and (2) accordingly, Anadarko’s challenge to the validity of the tax deed was barred by the statute of limitations. View "Anadarko Land Corp. v. Family Tree Corp." on Justia Law

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Pennaco Energy Inc. acquired mineral leases beneath a surface estate owned by Brett Sorenson, Trustee of the Brett L. Sorenson Trust. A surface damage and use agreement between the parties granted Pennaco access to and use of the land for exploration and production of minerals, and, in return, required Pennaco to pay for the damage to and use of the surface estate, and to reclaim the land once operations ended. When Pennaco refused to perform its obligations under the contract, Soreson brought this lawsuit. The jury rendered a verdict finding that Sorenson suffered more than $1 million in damages. The district court entered judgment on the jury’s verdict and also awarded Sorenson costs and attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by (1) ruling that Pennaco remained liable under the surface damage and use agreement after assignment, and (2) using a 2.5 multiplier to enhance the lodestar amount in awarding attorney fees. View "Pennaco Energy, Inc. v. Sorenson" on Justia Law

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Pennaco Energy, Inc. obtained oil and gas leases and made contracts with the surface landowners, who were predecessors of Appellees. The contracts granted Pennaco use of the landowners’ land during exploration and production under the mineral leases. After several years, Pennaco assigned its interest in its coal bed methane operation to CEP-M purchase, LLC, which re-assigned those interests to High Plains Gas, Inc. After the assignment, neither Pennaco nor the assignees made any required payments under the assignments, nor did they reclaim any of the land, as required under the agreements. Appellees sued Pennaco for breach of the agreements. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees. Pennaco appealed, arguing that the district court erred in concluding that Pennaco remained liable under the agreements even after the assignment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the agreements contained indications that Pennaco’s contractual obligations continued even after assignment and because there was no express clause that terminated Pennaco’s obligations upon assigning the agreements to a third party, Pennaco remained liable to Appellees to perform the covenants in the event its assignee defaulted. View "Pennaco Energy, Inc. v. KD Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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The parties in this case owned interests in certain oil and gas leases in Sublette County, Wyoming. In the underlying litigation, the district court granted a monetary judgment against Defendants for amounts due to Plaintiffs. Defendants paid the monetary judgment. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a motion to enforce judgment, claiming that Defendants were not properly accounting to them as required by the prior declaratory judgment and a net profits contract (NPC). After the district court issued its judgment, Defendants appealed the court’s decisions on the merits and its order requiring Defendants to pay attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed as revised, holding that the district court (1) properly assumed jurisdiction over the issues presented; (2) correctly interpreted its prior judgment and Defendants’ accounting responsibilities under the NPC; and (3) properly granted Plaintiffs’ request for attorney fees with one minor exception. View "Ultra Resources, Inc. v. Hartman" on Justia Law

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PRM Partners was a leaseholder of lands which covered an oil well. PRM Partners designated Petroleum Resource Managements, Corp. (PRM) as the operator of the well. PRM contracted with Hot Oil Services, Inc. to perform the day-to-day operations of the well. In 2009, Hot Oil requested that Basic Energy Services, LP perform workover operations on the well. While Basic Energy was performing the workover operations, a fire erupted, which damaged various pieces of equipment, including Basic Energy’s workover rig. Basic Energy sued PRM Partners and PRM to recover the damage to its equipment. The district court granted summary judgment for PRM Partners and PRM, concluding that Hot Oil was an independent contractor and that neither PRM nor PRM Partners could be held liable for the acts of an independent contractor. The Supreme Court (1) reversed and remanded on the issue of whether PRM breached the contract and reversed and remanded on the claim that PRM acted negligently in hiring Hot Oil, holding that the district court erred in entering summary judgment on these issues, as PRM failed to carry the initial burden of a summary judgment movant; and (2) ordered that PRM Partners be dismissed from the appeal. View "Basic Energy Servs., LP v. Petroleum Res. Mgmt., Corp." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a joint operating agreement (JOA) for Wyoming oil and gas interests entered into in 2000 by the predecessors in interest to Windsor Energy Group, LLC and Windsor Beaver Creek, LLC (together, Windsor) and Noble Energy, Inc. (Noble). In 2004, Noble’s predecessor assigned its interest to another party. In 2010, Windsor filed suit against Noble’s predecessor, claiming it was obligated for costs under the JOA. The district court ruled (1) an assignor of an interest who was not formally released was still obligated under the JOA, but (2) Windsor’s claim against Noble for breach of the JOA was barred by laches. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment without addressing the contract issue, holding that the district court (1) did not err in ruling that the equitable doctrine of laches was an available defense to Windsor’s claim for breach of the JOA even though the statute of limitations had not expired; and (2) did not abuse its discretion by finding the elements of laches were satisfied in this case. View "Windsor Energy Group, LLC v. Noble Energy, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case concerned Merit Energy Company's 2006 natural gas severance and ad valorem tax liability for wells located in several counties. Merit was a take-in-kind interest owner, which is a party who elects to take a portion of the mineral produced rather than receive monetary remuneration for its share of the production. The State Board of Equalization (SBOE) determined that Merit failed to timely appeal several final Wyoming Department of Revenue (DOR) decisions regarding the amount of taxable gas it had received and dismissed Merit's appeal. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in affirming the SBOE's dismissal as untimely; and (2) even if the Court permitted Merit to appeal the notice of valuation change sent by the DOR, the doctrine of collateral estoppel precluded Merit from doing so. View "Merit Energy Co. v. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved Cimarex Energy Company's plan to reinject waste carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide into a producing natural gas formation in southwest Wyoming over the objection of Exxon Mobil Corporation. Exxon appealed. The district court affirmed the Commission's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) the Commission properly denied Exxon's petition for a rehearing; but (2) the Commission failed to provide sufficient findings of fact as to whether Cimarex's plan to reinject carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide would result in waste of natural gas and improperly interfere with Exxon's correlative rights. Remanded to the Commission to make appropriate findings of both basic and ultimate facts. View "Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Wyo. Oil & Gas Conservation Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Bowers Oil and Gas, Inc. (BOG) entered into a Gas Purchase Contract with Kinder Morgan Operating, L.P. (Kinder Morgan), pursuant to which Kinder Morgan agreed to purchase coal bed methane gas from certain of BOG's wells. Kinder Morgan transferred its interest in the Contract, and Kinder Morgan's successor eventually terminated the Contract pursuant to a provision that allowed either party to terminate if in the terminating party's sole opinion, the sale or purchase of the gas became unprofitable or uneconomical. BOG thereafter filed suit asserting claims for breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Following a bench trial, the district court found no contract breach or covenant breach and ruled in favor of Kinder Morgan and its successor. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed. The Court found no breach of contract in the successor's removal of the pipelines connecting BOG to the gas gathering system and that the Gas Purchase Contract was properly terminated for economic cause. Furthermore, the Court found no clear error in the district court's rejection of BOG's claim for breach of the implied covenant and fair dealing. View "Bowers Oil & Gas, Inc. v. DCP Douglas, LLC" on Justia Law

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John and Minerva Sutherland entered into a mining lease granting Meridian Granite Company the right to conduct mining operations on the Sutherlands' property. A dispute developed between the Sutherlands and Meridian regarding the Sutherlands' obligation to pay taxes relating to the mineral production. The dispute led to litigation. The district court granted Meridian's motion for summary judgment, ruling that the Sutherlands were obligated to pay the disputed taxes. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in allowing Meridian to deduct ad valorem and severance taxes from payments to the Sutherlands when such tax payments were not required by the State, as the Sutherlands and Meridian agreed in the mining lease that the Sutherlands would pay the taxes. View "Sutherland v. Meridian Granite Co." on Justia Law