Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law
FERC V. VITOL INC., ET AL
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying Vitol, Inc.’s motion to dismiss, as untimely under the applicable statute of limitations, a complaint filed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that sought an order affirming the assessment of a civil penalty against Vitol and one of its traders for making unlawful manipulative trades in the California energy market. The court explained that in measuring the limitations period, the critical question is when FERC’s claim “accrues.” Vitol contended that FERC’s federal district court action was untimely because FERC’s claim accrued as soon as the allegedly unlawful trading occurred. The panel rejected Vitol’s contention and held that FERC’s claim accrued on the date that FERC assessed a civil penalty. The panel reasoned that FERC’s claim arises under 16 U.S.C. Section 823b(d)(3)(B), which gives the agency a cause of action in federal court for “affirming the assessment of the civil penalty,” and that claim does not accrue until FERC has assessed a penalty. The panel also agreed with the district court’s conclusion that FERC’s administrative process for assessing a civil penalty is itself a “proceeding” that is subject to the five-year statute of limitations in 28 U.S.C. Section 2462, and therefore FERC must initiate the proceeding by issuing a notice of proposed penalty within five years of any alleged wrongdoing. View "FERC V. VITOL INC., ET AL" on Justia Law
Entergy Arkansas, LLC v. Arkansas Electric Energy Consumers, Inc.
Entergy Arkansas, LLC, sells electricity to Arkansans. The Arkansas Public Service Commission sets the retail rates that Entergy can charge. Arkansas Electric Energy Consumers, Inc. (“AEEC”) is a trade association comprised of large industrial and agricultural Entergy customers. Entergy asked the Commission for permission to raise its retail rates. AEEC intervened, urging the Commission to deny Entergy’s request. The Commission ultimately did so. Entergy then sued the Commission in September 2020, alleging that the denial violated federal and state law. The Commission promptly moved to dismiss, but the district court denied its motion. Entergy moved for summary judgment. A week later—about twenty-two months after the suit commenced—AEEC moved to intervene as of right or, alternatively, to intervene permissively. AEEC appealed only the denial of its motion for the intervention of right under Rule 24(a)(2). The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial. The court explained that the Commission’s trial presentation does not evince the sort of “misfeasance or nonfeasance in protecting the public” necessary to overcome the presumption of adequacy. The court explained that the Commission has maintained throughout this litigation that the lawfulness of its denial must be evaluated solely on the basis of the evidence presented in the administrative proceeding (in which AEEC participated) and that additional evidence before the district court is, therefore, unnecessary. AEEC, therefore, has not shown that the Commission inadequately represents its interest in this litigation, as required by Rule 24(a)(2). View "Entergy Arkansas, LLC v. Arkansas Electric Energy Consumers, Inc." on Justia Law
Bay, et al. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore, et al.
Marvin and Mildred Bay (“the Bays”) challenged a court order dismissing their trespass claim against Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC and Anadarko Land Corporation (collectively, “Anadarko”). Anadarko, an oil and gas company, owned the mineral rights under the Bays’ farm. The Bays brought a putative class action along with other surface landowners against Anadarko, alleging that Anadarko’s mineral lessees had exceeded the scope of their mineral rights by drilling multiple vertical wells on the surface owners’ land when it was possible to drill fewer wells of the “directional” type. At the conclusion of the Bays’ presentation of evidence, the district court found that the Bays’ evidence failed as a matter of law to demonstrate that Anadarko’s activities amounted to a trespass and dismissed the case. Finding that the district court applied the wrong legal standard, the Tenth Circuit reversed the dismissal in "Bay I," finding that Colorado’s common law of trespass required the Bays to show that Anadarko’s lessees had “materially interfered” with the Bays’ farming operations. The appellate court questioned whether the record demonstrated that the Bays met this standard in their trial, but because Anadarko had not raised this specific issue, the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. On remand, the district court again granted judgment as a matter of law to Anadarko on the material interference issue. Specifically, the court first held that it was bound by the Tenth Circuit's interpretation in Bay I of the material interference standard, then found that the Bays showed only that Anadarko’s conduct inconvenienced them—which was insufficient to satisfy the material interference standard. The Bays again appealed, arguing that the Tenth Circuit's discussion of the material interference standard in Bay I was dictum; thus, the district court incorrectly determined that it was bound to apply that standard. They further argued the material interference standard applied by the district court was inconsistent with the Colorado standard for trespass outlined in Gerrity Oil & Gas Corp. v. Magness, 946 P.2d 913 (Colo. 1997), and that the evidence they presented in their trial established a prima facie case of material interference under Gerrity. The Tenth Circuit determined the district court did not err in its second dismissal and affirmed judgment. View "Bay, et al. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore, et al." on Justia Law
City of Hesperia v. Lake Arrowhead Community Services Dist.
This appeal was the second relating to a suit brought by the City of Hesperia (the City) against respondents Lake Arrowhead Community Services District and the Board of Directors of Lake Arrowhead Community Services District (jointly, the District) regarding a proposed 0.96-megawatt solar photovoltaic project (the Solar Project) that the District had been planning to develop on six acres of a 350-acre property it owned, known as the Hesperia Farms Property. The Hesperia Farms Property was located within the City’s municipal boundary and was generally subject to the City’s zoning regulations. The District first approved its Solar Project in December 2015, after determining that the project was either absolutely exempt from the City’s zoning regulations under Government Code section 53091, or qualifiedly exempt under Government Code section 53096. The City sought a writ of mandate prohibiting the District from further pursuing the Solar Project. In Hesperia I, the Court of Appeal determined the District’s Solar Project was not exempt from the City’s zoning regulations under Government Code section 53091’s absolute exemption, or under Government Code section 53096’s qualified exemption. The Court concluded, however, that Government Code section 52096’s qualified exemption did not apply to the District’s approval of the Solar Project only because the District had failed to provide substantial evidence to support its conclusion that there was no other feasible alternative to its proposed location for the Solar Project. This result left open the possibility that the District could undertake further analyses and show that there was no feasible alternative to the Solar Project’s proposed location in order to avoid application of the City’s zoning ordinances. A few months after the District made its second no-feasible-alternative determination with respect to the Solar Project, the City filed a second petition for writ of mandate and complaint challenging the Solar Project. The trial court ultimately denied the City’s second petition. When the City appealed, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court did not err in rejecting the City’s petition for writ of mandate. View "City of Hesperia v. Lake Arrowhead Community Services Dist." on Justia Law
WPX Energy Williston, LLC v. Hon. B.J. Jones
These appeals arise from a dispute over rights-of-way granted to WPX Energy Williston, LLC by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The areas are located on allotments of land owned by members of the Fettig family within the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. WPX Energy and the Fettigs agreed to a condition, which was incorporated into the grants, that bans smoking on the right-of-way land. In 2020, the Fettigs sued WPX Energy in the Three Affiliated Tribes District Court, alleging that the company breached the smoking ban. WPX Energy moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The tribal court concluded that it possessed jurisdiction over the case and denied the motion to dismiss. WPX Energy appealed the decision to a tribal appellate court. he district court concluded that WPX Energy had exhausted its tribal court remedies and that the tribal court lacked jurisdiction, so it granted a preliminary injunction. The Eighth Circuit vacated the injunction and remanded to the district court with directions to dismiss the complaint without prejudice. The court concluded that WPX Energy did not exhaust its tribal court remedies and that a ruling in federal court on the question of tribal court jurisdiction was premature. The court explained that the policy of promoting tribal self-governance is not limited to tribal court proceedings that involve the development of a factual record. Rather, exhaustion of tribal court remedies “means that tribal appellate courts must have the opportunity to review the determinations of the lower tribal courts.” View "WPX Energy Williston, LLC v. Hon. B.J. Jones" on Justia Law
Rankin County v. Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, L.P., et al.
Gulf South Pipeline Company, LLC owned an underground natural gas storage facility in Rankin County, Mississippi. It owned additional properties that ran through thirty-two Mississippi counties. As a public service corporation with property situated in more than one Mississippi county, property belonging to Gulf South was assessed centrally by the Mississippi Department of Revenue rather than by individual county tax assessors. After conducting the central assessment, MDOR apportions the tax revenues among the several counties in which the property is located. A significant amount of the natural gas stored in Gulf South’s Rankin County facility is owned by Gulf South’s customers and, therefore, it is excluded from MDOR’s central assessment. The Rankin County tax assessor requested that Gulf South disclose the volume of natural gas owned by each of its customers. Following Gulf South’s refusal to provide these data, in September 2021 the Rankin County tax assessor gave notice of its intention to assess Gulf South more than sixteen million dollars for approximately four billion cubic feet of natural gas stored by Gulf South but owned by its customers. Gulf South filed suit at the Chancery Court in Hinds County, seeking to enjoin the assessment and seeking a declaratory judgment that MDOR was the exclusive entity with the authority to assess a public service corporation with property located in more than one Mississippi county. On interlocutory appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court was asked to determine whether venue was proper in Hinds County when Rankin County was named as a defendant and MDOR was joined as a necessary party. The Court held that, under the venue provisions of Mississippi Code Section 11-45-17 and the Court’s consistent construction of these statutory provisions as mandatory and controlling, venue was proper only in Rankin County. Therefore, the chancellor erred by denying Rankin County’s motion to transfer venue. View "Rankin County v. Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, L.P., et al." on Justia Law
Black, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum, et al.
Plaintiffs-landowners alleged Anadarko Petroleum Corporation's intracompany practice of leasing its mineral interests to its affiliated operating company, including its 30% royalty rate, had the intent and effect of reducing the value of Plaintiffs’ mineral interests. Plaintiffs claimed Anadarko thereby maintained and furthered its dominant position in the market for leasing oil and gas mineral interests in violation of the Sherman Act § 2 and Wyoming antitrust laws. Plaintiffs sought treble damages and attorneys’ fees under § 4 of the Clayton Act. The federal district court certified a class action, for liability purposes only, comprised of “[a]ll persons . . . having ownership of Class Minerals during the Class Period.” Anadarko appealed the district court’s class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f). The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court applied the correct legal standard in deciding whether the class satisfied the requirements of Rule 23, and it did not abuse its discretion in certifying the class. The Court therefore affirmed the district court’s class certification. View "Black, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum, et al." on Justia Law
Granite State Trade School, LLC v. New Hampshire Mechanical Licensing Board
Plaintiff Granite State Trade School, LLC (GSTS) was a gas training school providing fuel gas fitting training courses and licensing exams in New Hampshire since 2007. GSTS was approved as a gas training school prior to the adoption of the current gas fitting regulatory framework. In 2020, defendant New Hampshire Mechanical Licensing Board (Board) directed GSTS to submit to an audit by producing its curriculum, instructor information, and exam materials. In response, GSTS brought suit seeking a declaration that “GSTS training and testing is grandfathered and exempt from compliance” with the audit request because its programs predated the current regulations. Alternatively, GSTS asked the trial court to find Rules Saf-Mec 308 and 610 “arbitrary and capricious” because the rules failed to protect the “integrity and security of the program education materials, and exams,” and were “overburdensome.” GSTS sought to enjoin the Board from: (1) requiring the production of proprietary materials created by GSTS; (2) terminating its training program; and (3) declining to accept certification from GSTS. The Board moved to dismiss; the trial court granted the Board’s motion. The court ruled that the plain and ordinary meaning of the language contained in Rules Saf-Mec 308 and 610 did not “relieve prior approved programs from their continuing obligations” to comply with the regulatory scheme. The trial court also ruled that Saf-Mec 610 “is a valid exercise of the state’s police power and not arbitrary or capricious” and dismissed GSTS’s claim that Saf-Mec 308 was arbitrary and capricious. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Granite State Trade School, LLC v. New Hampshire Mechanical Licensing Board" on Justia Law
Hopeful v. Etchepare, LLC
The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part Petitioners' petition for a writ of review seeking interlocutory review of the orders of the district court denying Petitioners' motion to dismiss and motion to set aside default, holding that the district court abused its discretion in denying the motion to set aside the default judgment.At issue was subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction based on service by publication. Petitioners argued that the failure to serve Defendants with a summons stripped the district court of both subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction. The First Circuit held (1) absent a statute or rule to the contrary, no summons is required when service is accomplished by publication; (2) the district court correctly determined that a summons is not required as to those defendants who are properly subject to service by publication; but (3) the court erred in finding the service by publication conferred personal jurisdiction over the defendants with a known address. View "Hopeful v. Etchepare, LLC" on Justia Law
CRA V. CITY OF BERKELEY
The Energy Policy and Conservation Act (“EPCA”), expressly preempts State and local regulations concerning the energy use of many natural gas appliances, including those used in household and restaurant kitchens. Instead of directly banning those appliances in new buildings, the City of Berkeley took a more circuitous route to the same result. It enacted a building code that prohibits natural gas piping into those buildings, rendering the gas appliances useless. The California Restaurant Association (“CRA”), whose members include restaurateurs and chefs, challenged Berkeley’s regulation, raising an EPCA preemption claim. The district court dismissed the suit. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that the CRA demonstrated that (1) at least one of its members had suffered an injury in fact, that was (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent rather than conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury was fairly traceable to the challenged action; and (3) it was likely, not merely speculative, that the injury would be redressed by a favorable decision. The panel held that, by its plain text and structure, the Act’s preemption provision encompasses building codes that regulate natural gas use by covered products. By preventing such appliances from using natural gas, the Berkeley building code did exactly that. The panel reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "CRA V. CITY OF BERKELEY" on Justia Law