Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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This appeal centered on the trial court's judgment after a bench trial that denied the Appellant's petition to cancel Appellee's oil and gas leases, to quiet title in favor of the Appellant's "top leases," and to hold Appellee liable for slander of title. The Oklahoma Supreme Court retained the appeal to address several issues of first impression. Through this opinion, the Court declined to adopt the definition of "capability" propounded by the Appellant and affirmed the district court's finding that Appellee's wells were capable of production in paying quantities. The Court affirmed the district court's judgment insofar as it quieted title in Appellee's favor as to leasehold interests located inside those wells' spacing units. The Court reversed the district court's judgment insofar as it quieted title in Appellee's favor as to leasehold interests in lands falling outside those wells' spacing units, because the statutory Pugh clause found in 52 O.S. 87.1(b) required it. Furthermore, the Court found that the title of the bill enacting the statutory Pugh clause did not violate Article V, Section 57 of the Oklahoma Constitution and that the effect of the statutory Pugh clause upon Appellee's leasehold interests did not result in an unconstitutional taking in violation of Article II, Section 23 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Lastly, the Court reversed the district court's judgment insofar as it quieted title in Appellee's favor as to leases upon which no well had ever been drilled. View "Hall v. Galmor" on Justia Law

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On December 20, 2017, Respondents Michael Thompson, Ray Potts, and Mary Lynn Peacher (collectively, Proponents) filed Initiative Petition No. 416, State Question No. 795 (IP 416) with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. IP 416 would create a new Article XIII-C in the Oklahoma Constitution. IP 416 contains 8 sections, which Proponents asserted will levy a new 5% gross production tax on oil and gas production from certain wells, and provide for the deposit of the proceeds primarily in a new fund entitled the "Oklahoma Quality Instruction Fund" (the Fund). Monies from the Fund would be distributed: (1) 90% to Oklahoma common school districts to increase compensation and benefits for certified personnel, and the hiring, recruitment and retention thereof; and (2) 10% to the State Department of Education to promote school readiness, and to support compensation for instructors and other instructional expenses in "high-quality early learning centers" for at-risk children prior to entry into the common education system. The opponent petitioners alleged the gist of the petition was insufficient and misleading. Upon review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held the gist of the petition was legally sufficient. View "McDonald v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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On December 20, 2017, Respondents Michael Thompson, Ray Potts, and Mary Lynn Peacher (collectively, Proponents) filed Initiative Petition No. 416, State Question No. 795 (IP 416) with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. IP 416 would create a new Article XIII-C in the Oklahoma Constitution. IP 416 contains 8 sections, which Proponents asserted will levy a new 5% gross production tax on oil and gas production from certain wells, and provide for the deposit of the proceeds primarily in a new fund entitled the "Oklahoma Quality Instruction Fund" (the Fund). Monies from the Fund would be distributed: (1) 90% to Oklahoma common school districts to increase compensation and benefits for certified personnel, and the hiring, recruitment and retention thereof; and (2) 10% to the State Department of Education to promote school readiness, and to support compensation for instructors and other instructional expenses in "high-quality early learning centers" for at-risk children prior to entry into the common education system. The opponent petitioners alleged the gist of the petition was insufficient and misleading. Upon review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held the gist of the petition was legally sufficient. View "McDonald v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Frank Benedetti, an employee of Schlumberger Technology Corporation, was working on an oil rig near El Reno, Oklahoma, when he slipped on an icy platform and fell more than thirty feet down a stairwell. Benedetti sued Cimarex Energy Company, the owner and operator of the well site, and Cactus Drilling Company, the owner and operator of the oil rig, for negligence. Cimarex moved to dismiss pursuant to 85 O.S. 2011 section 302(H), which provided that "any operator or owner of an oil or gas well . . . shall be deemed to be an intermediate or principal employer" for purposes of extending immunity from civil liability. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, and Benedetti appealed. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. Pursuant to the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision in Strickland v. Stephens Production Co., 2018 OK 6, ___ P.3d ___, the Supreme Court concluded section 302(H) of Title 85 was an impermissible and unconstitutional special law under Art. 5, section 59 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Subsection (H) was severed from the remainder of that provision. View "Benedetti v. Cimarex Energy Co." on Justia Law

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An employee of a trucking company was killed while on the job at an oil-well site. The employee's surviving daughter brought a wrongful death action against the owner and operator of the well site, Stephens Production Company. Stephens Production Company moved to dismiss the case pursuant to 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 sec. 5(A), which provides that "any operator or owner of an oil or gas well . . . shall be deemed to be an intermediate or principal employer" for purposes of extending immunity from civil liability. The district court denied the motion to dismiss, finding that section 5(A) of Title 85A was an unconstitutional special law. The trial court certified the order for immediate interlocutory review, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari review. The Supreme Court concluded that the last sentence of section 5(A) of Title 85A was an impermissible and unconstitutional special law under Art. 5, section 59 of the Oklahoma Constitution. The last sentence of section 5(A) was severed from the remainder of that provision. View "Strickland v. Stephens Production Co." on Justia Law

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Stephens Production Company sought to condemn underground natural gas storage easements and surface easements to complete an underground natural gas storage facility on and underneath approximately 900 acres of mostly rural property in Haskell County. Approximately 140 Defendants were named in the Petition. Stephens Production had previously offered such Defendants "just market value" for their respective interests, but the Defendants refused the offers. The trial court appointed three commissioners to value just compensation due for each Defendant listed in the Petition. All Defendants except one, appellant Royce Larsen, settled with Stephens Production. The Commissioners valued Larsen's property taken and the damage to the remainder at $12,400.00. Larsen objected to this amount, and his case proceeded to trial. Larsen's expert testified the just compensation value was approximately $419,000.00; Stephens Production's expert valued the just compensation at $9,000.00. The trial court determined that just compensation for the property was $9,000.00. Without any evidence from Larsen regarding the reasonable probability of combination or the market demand for underground gas storage in the area, the highest and best use of the property was the use to which it was subject at the time of the taking - natural resource, agricultural, and recreational use. The Supreme Court concluded the record supported the trial court's valuation of just compensation at $9,000.00. View "Stephens Production Co. v. Larsen" on Justia Law

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Parties to an agreement regarding an area of mutual interest for the purposes of oil and gas exploration sought to determine their respective rights under the agreement. The agreement gave the respondents in this case the right to participate in wells in futuro. The petitioners urged that the provision violated the rule against perpetuities. The district court agreed and granted judgment to the petitioners. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part remanded the matter for further proceedings. The issues this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether a clause in an agreement giving a limited liability company the right to participate in all future wells on unleased property violated Article II, Section 32 of the Oklahoma Constitution prohibiting perpetuities, and whether a limited liability company was a "life in being." The Court answered the first question in the affirmative and the second question in the negative, finding that the district court did not err in granting a motion to dismiss based on these two questions. View "American Natural Resources, LLC v. Eagle Rock Energy Partners, L.P." on Justia Law

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This appeal was one of many concerning natural gas wells operated from 1978 to 1998 in Beckham County, Oklahoma. In the immediately preceding appeal, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed a jury verdict for damages for breach of drilling leases for $3,650,000, but reversed two other jury awards in the amounts of $4,055,000.00 and $6,845,000.00. The trial court denied prejudgment interest and the royalty owners appealed. After review, the Supreme Court held that: (1) review of the issue of prejudgment interest is not precluded by the settled-law-of-the-case doctrine; (2) the Production Revenue Standards Act, 52 O.S. 2011 sec. 570 et seq., was inapplicable to the facts presented; and (3) because the plaintiff's claims were unliquidated, prejudgment interest was not recoverable pursuant to 23 O.S. 2011 sec. 6. View "Krug v. Helmerich & Payne, Inc." on Justia Law

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Helmerich & Payne, Inc. (H&P) appeals a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, who are a class of oil and gas royalty owners. The class alleged that the defendant breached contractual and fiduciary duties by allowing uncompensated drainage of natural gas to occur from the leases and that the defendant engaged in constructive fraud and was unjustly enriched by failing to pay royalty amounts that the class alleged were included in a settlement between the defendant and ANR Pipeline. The jury returned verdicts on three alternative theories of recovery. The trial court judge granted judgment that included disgorgement of profits based on a sum the trial court found unjustly enriched H&P. On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, and remanded with instructions. H&P argued on appeal to the Supreme Court that: (1) the trial court erred in its jury instructions for uncompensated drainage that barred consideration of counterdrainage; (2) the appellate court erred by allowing a breach of contract claim to be recast as an equitable unjust enrichment claim; (3) the appellate court erred in affirming a "mathematically impossible" jury verdict on plaintiffs' constructive fraud claims; and (4) the appellate court erred in affirming the constructive fraud damage award notwithstanding that no fraud claim was ever certified. After review, the Supreme Court found: (1) the trial court committed no reversible error; (2) the jury found that plaintiffs did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that H&P acted in reckless disregard for the rights of others, nor that H&P acted intentionally and with malice toward others; (3) because the Court reversed the judgment based on equity, the third reason for granting certiorari was answered; and (4) having reversed the constructive fraud damage award, the Court held this issue was moot. View "Krug v. Helmerich & Payne, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Enerlex, Inc. offered to purchase plaintiffs'-appellees' mineral interest. At the time, plaintiffs did not know that their Seminole County mineral interests were included in a pooling order or that proceeds had accrued under the pooling order. Defendant admitted it knew about the pooling order and the accrued proceeds but did not disclose these facts in making the purchase offer. Plaintiffs signed the mineral deeds which defendant provided and subsequently discovered the pooling order, the production, and the accrued proceeds. Plaintiffs sued for rescission and damages, alleging misrepresentation, deceit and fraud. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the summary judgment. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded defendant obtained the mineral deeds from plaintiffs by false representation and suppression of the whole truth. Defendant was therefore liable to plaintiffs for constructive fraud. Rescission was the appropriate remedy for defendant's misrepresentation and constructive fraud. Therefore, the Court reversed the appellate court and reinstated the district court's judgment. View "Widner v. Enerlex, Inc." on Justia Law