Federal judge: Home rule charter banning hydraulic fracturing is preempted by federal, Pennsylvania laws

A federal judge in the Western District of Pennsylvania on September 29, 2017 issued an opinion in Seneca Resources Corporation v. Highland Township, W.D.Pa. No. 16-cv-289 Erie, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162629 (Sep. 29, 2017), granting a motion for judgment on the pleadings from Seneca Resources. The Court reviewed a Highland Township Home Rule Charter – approved by voters in a referendum in November 2017 –  that banned certain hydraulic fracturing operations within the township. The Court ultimately determined that the charter was preempted by both federal law and Pennsylvania state law. Further, it held that the charter was an impermissible use of legislative powers, a violation of the company’s First Amendment rights, and a de facto violation of the company’s Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights.

Oil & Gas Litigation, Pennsylvania

Appellate Court certifies conflict to Ohio Supreme Court on Ohio Marketable Title Act issue

On September 18, 2017, the Seventh District Court of Appeals issued an entry in Blackstone v. Moore, 7th Dist. Monroe No. 14 MO 0001, granting a motion to certify a conflict to the Ohio Supreme Court involving an important issue under the Ohio Marketable Title Act.  More specifically, the Seventh District determined that its June 2017 decision was in conflict with Duvall v. Hibbs, 5th Dist. No. CA-709, 1983 Ohio App. LEXIS 13042 (June 8, 1983) regarding whether a reference to a mineral reservation in a deed was specific or general pursuant to R.C. 5301.49(A). The Duvall court created a strict, bright-line rule that looked to whether the deed containing the reservation could be located without checking the indices in the county recorder’s office. The Seventh District, however, chose to analyze the issue using a four-factor test that has been followed in other appellate districts (1. the type of mineral right created; 2. the nature of the encumbrance; 3. the original owner of the interest; and 4. whether it referenced the instrument creating the interest).  Check back with ShaleOhio for updates on this case.

Ohio, Oil & Gas Litigation

Landowners file suit to block Mountain Valley Pipeline project

Some landowners in West Virginia and Virginia are trying to head off approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) of the Mountain Valley Pipeline by launching a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, reports the Gazette-Mail in Charleston, West Virginia. The newspaper says the plaintiffs in Berkley v. Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC seek to block FERC from issuing a certificate approving the pipeline project and giving its developers the ability to use eminent domain to condemn property for its construction. The complaint argues that such an approval by FERC would violate the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that private property can not be taken “for public use, without just compensation.”

Oil & Gas Litigation, West Virginia

Athens County judge upholds rejection of oil and gas-related ballot issue

Athens County Common Pleas Court Judge George McCarthy has upheld the county elections board's rejection of an oil and natural gas-related charter initiative for the November 2017 ballot, reports the Athens News. The newspaper says Judge McCarthy ruled the charter proposal did not have the required number of signatures to be placed on the ballot, and also sided with the Athens County Board of Elections that a proposed executive council in the ballot initiative "does not meet Ohio Revised Code requirements for a county executive under an alternative form of government." The News says the charter issue, proposed by the Athens County Bill of Rights Committee, "doubles as an effort to keep oil and gas horizontal hydraulic fracturing out of Athens County." For more, read the full story.

Ohio, Oil & Gas Litigation

Virginia court rules in favor of pipeline company in surveying dispute

The Supreme Court of Virginia has ruled in favor of the company developing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina in a lawsuit involving a landowner who sought to keep surveyors off her property, reports the Associated Press. The news service says that in Palmer v. Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, property owner Hazel Palmer argued a Virginia law allowing surveying privileges shouldn't apply because the pipeline company is organized under Delaware law. The Court disagreed, ruling that Palmer's property rights don't allow her to exclude surveyors for the natural gas pipeline. For more, read the full story.

National, Oil & Gas Litigation, West Virginia

West Virginia Supreme Court rules post-production costs can be deducted from royalties

The West Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that natural gas companies can deduct post-production costs from the royalties paid to landowners under oil and gas leases, reports The Associated Press. The news service says the Court, in a 4-1 decision, concluded in Leggett v. EQT Production Company that the intent of West Virginia legislators and language in the state code permit the deduction "of reasonable post-production expenses actually incurred" by the company leasing the oil and gas mineral rights. For more, read the full story.

Oil & Gas Litigation, West Virginia

Ohio Supreme Court affirms Fourth District Court of Appeals, holds that lease did not terminate after energy companies failed to pay minimum annual rental fees

Today, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a ruling that an oil and gas lease in Washington County did not terminate when the energy companies failed to pay the minimum annual rental fees set by the lease. The primary issue before the Court was whether the Bohlens (lessors) have the right to terminate an oil and gas lease when energy companies (lessees) fail to make the minimum annual rental payments provided for in the lease. Click here for a Bricker & Eckler summary of the ruling.

Ohio, Oil & Gas Litigation

Pennsylvania groups fight court ruling on waterway pollution

Nearly 100 elected officials, environmental groups and businesses have signed on to legal briefs to support the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in a state Supreme Court case that could restrict maximum fines for pollution to waterways, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The newspaper says DEP is appealing a Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania decision from January, 2017 in a suit brought by EQT Corp., a natural gas production company. The court ruled fines for spills into streams and groundwater “must be based on the duration of the initial release and not on the days pollution continues to flow through the hydrologic system or seep out of contaminated soil,” according to the Post-Gazette. For more, read the full story.

Oil & Gas Litigation, Pennsylvania

Ohio Supreme Court accepts oil and gas appeal involving implied covenants

The Ohio Supreme Court has accepted a landowner’s appeal in Alford v. Collins-McGregor Operating Co., which seeks to expand Ohio’s implied covenants for reasonable development to include deeper and unexplored formations. The case itself involves approximately 74 acres in Washington County, Ohio that were leased in 1980 and have been held by production by one conventional well. The landowner did not dispute the production from that well, but rather argued that the oil and gas company was not capable of developing any formations deeper than the Gordon Sands Formation. As a result, the landowner requested that all geologic formations below the Gordon Sands be released based on the implied covenant for reasonable development. The 4th District Court of Appeals (Washington County) rejected the landowner’s arguments. Click here for the District Court of Appeals decision.

Ohio, Oil & Gas Litigation

Lawsuit challenges oil and gas leases in Wayne National Forest

Several conservation groups have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in an attempt to void oil and natural gas leases and halt hydraulic fracturing operations in the Wayne National Forest, reports the Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, West Virginia. The complaint was filed against the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management by the Center for Biological Diversity, Ohio Environmental Council, Heartwood and Ohio Sierra Club. The Herald-Dispatch says the plaintiffs claim the federal agencies “failed to analyze threats to public health, endangered species and the climate” before auctioning leasing rights to more than 670 acres in the Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio. For more, read the full story.

Ohio, Oil & Gas Litigation
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