Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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The Alabama Surface Mining Commission ("the Commission") and Black Warrior Minerals, Inc. ("Black Warrior"), separately petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to dismiss the underlying action seeking judicial review of the Commission's issuance of a surface-coal-mining permit to Black Warrior, or, in the alternative, to transfer the action to the Walker Circuit Court. The underlying action was filed by respondents, John Crane, Dan Jett, and Linda Jett ("the property owners"), who owned property near the location that was the subject of the permit. The Supreme Court found that when originally enacted, the Alabama Surface Mining Act did not include a venue provision. Alabama law was amended to specify that the proper venue for judicial review of a final Commission decision was "in the circuit court of the county in which the commission maintains its principal office." Under the plain language of the applicable statute, the only proper venue for the property owners' action was the Walker County circuit court. The property owners contended that, at the time they commenced their appeal with the Jefferson Circuit Court, the 2015 amendment to the applicable statute was not effective and the earlier version applied. Finding that the 2015 statute was properly enacted, the Supreme Court held "the effective date for such a change in state law should be the date determined by the Alabama Legislature, not the date of approval by the [Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement]," thus the Commission and Black Warrior demonstrated a clear legal right to have their underlying action transferred to the Walker Circuit Court. View "Ex parte Alabama Surface Mining Commission." on Justia Law

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Ankor Energy, LLC, and Ankor E&P Holdings Corporation (collectively, "Ankor") appealed a circuit court's grant of a motion for a new trial in favor of Jerry Kelly, Kandace Kelly McDaniel, Kelly Properties, LLP, and K&L Resources, LLP (collectively, "the Kellys"). In 2010, Renaissance Petroleum Company, LLC, drilled two oil wells in Escambia County, Alabama. The Kellys owned property in Escambia County and entered into two leases with Renaissance. The leases included property near the two wells. In December 2010, Ankor acquired an interest in Renaissance's project and leases in Escambia County. In January 2011, Renaissance and Ankor petitioned the Oil and Gas Board ("the Board") to establish production units for the two wells. In February 2011, the Board held a hearing to determine what property to include in the production units. The Kellys were represented by counsel at the hearing and argued that their property should be included in the production units. The Board established the production units for the two wells but did not include the Kellys' property. Renaissance continued to operate the project until May 2011, when Ankor took over operations. In December 2011, Ankor offered to request that the Board include the Kellys' property in the production units. Ankor took the position that it had not drained any oil from the Kellys' property, and Ankor offered to pay royalties to the Kellys but only after the date the Board included the Kellys' property in the production units. The Kellys did not accept the offer, and later sued, listing multiple causes of action and alleging Ankor failed to include their property in the production units presented to the Board, knowing that their property should have been included. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court's order granting the Kellys' motion for a new trial based on juror misconduct; the matter was remanded for the trial court to reinstate the original judgment entered on the jury's verdict in favor of Ankor. View "Kelly v. Ankor Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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Wausau Development Corporation ("WDC") appeals a circuit court judgment in favor of Natural Gas & Oil, Inc. ("NGO"). NGO filed a complaint seeking a judgment determining the validity of certain oil and gas leases held by WDC to particular wells located in Lamar County. NGO alleged: WDC was a Mississippi corporation with a principal office located in Mississippi and that WDC was not authorized to conduct business in Alabama because WDC was not registered as a foreign entity; that WDC had obtained leases to the wells but that, by their terms, WDC's leases had expired and had not been held open by production; and it had obtained new and current leases on the wells. WDC argued on appeal that the circuit court exceeded its discretion by granting NGO's motion for a judgment on the pleadings because, it said, the undisputed facts in the pleadings did not support the circuit court's judgment as a matter of law. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed the circuit court's judgment. View "Wausau Development Corporation v. Natural Gas & Oil, Inc. " on Justia Law

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South Alabama Gas District (SAG) appealed a circuit court order enjoining it from selling liquified petroleum ("LP") gas and related appliances outside its member cities. Four individual taxpayers and Fletcher Smith Butane Co., Inc., sued SAG seeking both an injunction and damages for SAG's alleged violation of 11-50-266, as made applicable to gas districts by 11-50-399. The trial court bifurcated the claim for injunctive relief and the damages claim, and held a bench trial on the claim for injunctive relief. SAG argued that the notice and buy-out provisions did not apply to it because LP gas is not a "manufactured gas" within the terms of the statute. The trial court found otherwise and enjoined SAG from selling LP gas if it did not comply with 11-50-266. The circuit court found that the taxpayers lacked standing to challenge SAG's appliance sales. With regard to Fletcher Smith, SAG argued (among other things), that Fletcher Smith lacked standing because it sold its assets and was no longer engaging in the LP gas business. As proof, SAG cited Fletcher Smith's to "Requests for Admissions of Fact." After review of the circuit court record and the admissions cited by SAG in its appeal brief, the Supreme Court found that Fletcher Smith's claims for prospective relief became moot. "Because mootness goes to justiciability, this Court will not consider the merits of a claim that is moot." View "South Alabama Gas District v. Knight" on Justia Law

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Defendants The Pantry, Inc., and Herndon Oil Corporation appealed a judgment entered on a jury verdict in favor of plaintiffs Kaycee Mosley and Alana Byrd. The appeals primarily concerned whether Kaycee and Alana's mother, Murel Mosley, unreasonably withheld consent to Herndon Oil's assignment of a lease between Murel and Herndon Oil. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment and remanded the case, concluding that Murel unreasonably withheld consent to the assignment of the lease from Herndon Oil to The Pantry. Thus, Herndon Oil had the right under the lease agreement to assign the lease to The Pantry despite Murel's failure to consent. Furthermore, neither Herndon Oil nor The Pantry could be liable on a conversion claim. View "The Pantry, Inc. v. Mosley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued Mobile Gas Service Corporation, pipeline operators and several other companies over the release of an odorant containing mercaptan. Mobile Gas, stated that, in fall 2011, Mobile Gas started receiving complaints about natural-gas leaks in the Eight Mile area; that the complaints centered around the facilities of Gulf South and Mobile Gas. plaintiffs, who resided in the Eight Mile area, filed their complaint, alleging nuisance, aggravated nuisance, negligence, and wantonness against the defendants arising from the release of mercaptan. A dispute arose over the issuance of a subpoena to the engineering firm that did the initial survey of the leak for Mobile Gas in response to an investigation by State Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). Mobile Gas objected to plaintiffs' attempt to subpoena the engineer; Mobile asserted that the engineer's report was privileged and therefore protected by the work-product privilege. The trial court denied Mobile Gas' objection. Mobile then filed its mandamus petition with the Supreme Court. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that Mobile Gas has established that the trial court exceeded its discretion when it disregarded the work-product privilege and entered an order compelling Mobile Gas to produce the documents included in the privilege log and when it denied Mobile Gas's motion for a protective order. Thus, Mobile Gas has established a clear legal right to a protective order regarding the production of the documents listed on the privilege log it submitted to the trial court. Accordingly, the Court granted Mobile Gas's petition for the writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to set aside its order compelling the production of documents included in the privilege log and to order those documents protected (including the engineer's report) from discovery. View "Parker et al. v. Mobile Gas Service Corporation et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant Alabama Power Company filed a petition for the writ of mandamus to ask the Supreme Court to direct the trial court to dismiss Plaintiff Capitol Container, Inc.'s claims against it for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. On appeal, Alabama Power argued the Alabama Public Service Commission (APSC) had exclusive jurisdiction over those claims Capitol filed, and Capitol failed to exhaust its administrative remedies before filing its action. Upon review of the record below, the Supreme Court found that Capitol indeed failed to exhaust its administrative remedies before filing its suit against the power company. The Court issued the writ. View "Capitol Container, Inc. v. Alabama Power Co." on Justia Law

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Black Warrior Minerals, Inc. sued Empire Coal Sales, Inc. and John Fay, Jr. Black Warrior sought money allegedly owed pursuant to a coal-purchase agreement between Black Warrior and Empire and a personal guaranty executed by Mr. Fay. A trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Black Warrior, awarding it damages plus attorney fees and costs. The trial court held a bench trial on the breach-of-guaranty claim against Mr. Fay, entering judgment in favor of Mr. Fay. Black Warrior appealed the latter, arguing that the trial court erred in finding the language of the guaranty was ambiguous and applied only to amounts in excess of $1.2 million owed by Empire to Black Warrior. Upon review of the language of the guaranty and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in its interpretation of the guaranty's terms. The Court reversed the lower court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Black Warrior Minerals, Inc. v. Fay" on Justia Law