Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law
Collingwood Appalachian Minerals III, LLC v. Erlewine
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment for Respondent in this action claiming that Respondent owned fifty percent interest in the oil and gas estate Petitioners purchased at prior tax sales, holding that the circuit court erred.In 1989, Respondent and Petitioners participated in a tax sale after a delinquent taxpayer neglected to pay taxes on 135 acres of property and twenty-five percent of its subjacent oil and gas estate. Respondent bought the property, and Petitioners bought the interest in the oil and gas estate. In 1993, Petitioner brought another twenty-five percent interest in the same oil and gas estate after another tax resulting from a different taxpayer's delinquency. Respondent subsequently filed this lawsuit claiming ownership in the fifty percent interest in the oil and gas estate Petitioners had purchased. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Respondent. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Petitioners purchased a valid tax deed to the oil and gas estate, and Respondent lacked grounds to challenge Petitioners' tax-sale deed; and (2) as to Petitioners' 1995 deed, the delinquent taxpayer clearly owned the twenty-five percent interest in the oil and gas estate for which his taxes were delinquent. View "Collingwood Appalachian Minerals III, LLC v. Erlewine" on Justia Law
L&D Investments, Inc. v. Antero Resources Corp.
The Supreme Court held that the circuit court erred by denying Petitioners' counsel's request for an attorney fee and costs pursuant to the common fund doctrine in the underlying lawsuit involving a quiet title action and concomitant claim for unpaid and gas royalties, holding that the circuit court erred.The underlying lawsuit ultimately resulted in two separate monetary settlements, one for the benefit of Petitioners and one for the benefit of a separate group of individuals whose interests were wholly aligned with Petitioners' interests but with whom Petitioners' counsel had not been able to establish contact. At issue was whether counsel was entitled to payment of attorney fees and costs from the separate settlement fund he negotiated with the second settlement, despite the fact that counsel had no contractual relationship with those individuals. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that counsel was entitled under the common fund doctrine to require the beneficiaries for whom he was not acting by agreement to contribute to the "reasonable and necessary expense" of securing the common bond for their benefit. View "L&D Investments, Inc. v. Antero Resources Corp." on Justia Law
Posted in: Energy, Oil & Gas Law
Equitrans, L.P. v. Public Service Comm’n of W. Va.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia (PSC) ordering Equitrans, LC, a natural gas interstate pipeline company, to permit Hope Gas to connect a natural gas field tap on property owned by Ronald and Ashton Hall to Equitrans' "gathering line," holding that the PSC properly exercised jurisdiction in this matter.Seeking to divest itself of its gathering facilities Equitrans applied to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) to abandon and sell its gathering facilities. FERC approved the application. When Equitrans denied Hope Gas's request to reestablish a service connection to the Halls' residence the Halls filed their complaint with the PSC. The PSC found that it had jurisdiction over the gathering facilities. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PSC properly exercised jurisdiction over the gathering facility at issue. View "Equitrans, L.P. v. Public Service Comm'n of W. Va." on Justia Law
SWN Production Co., LLC v. Kellam
The Supreme Court answered certified questions seeking to clarify whether, in payment of royalties under an oil and gas lease, the lessor may be required to bear a portion of the post-production costs incurred in rendering the oil and gas marketable.Specifically, the district court asked whether Estate of Tawyne v. Columbia Natural Resources, LLC, 633 S.E.2d 22 (W. Va. 2006) is still good law in West Virginia and then asked the Supreme Court to expound upon its holding in Tawney. The Supreme Court answered (1) Tawney is still good law; and (2) this Court defines to answer the reformulated question of what level of specificity Tawney requires of an oil and gas lease to permit the deduction of post-production costs from a lessor's royalty payments. View "SWN Production Co., LLC v. Kellam" on Justia Law
Orville Young, LLC v. Bonacci
The Supreme Court affirmed the summary and declaratory judgment order of the circuit court determining that Frank Bonacci and Brian Bonacci (together, the Bonacci brothers) were the owners of an undivided and unsevered oil and gas estate, holding that there was no error.The circuit court's order found that the Bonacci brothers were the owners of the undivided oil and gas estate at issue because the tax deeds through which Petitioners, two Florida limited liability companies, had allegedly obtained title to the same mineral estate were void. Petitioners appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in concluding that the underlying tax deeds were void. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the tax deeds were void and conveyed no interest in the oil and gas estate underlying the surface panel now owned by the Bonacci brothers. View "Orville Young, LLC v. Bonacci" on Justia Law
Smith v. Chestnut Ridge Storage, LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioners' motion for summary judgment, holding that Petitioners were immune from Respondent's lawsuit pursuant to the litigation privilege and the Noerr-Pennington doctrine.Petitioners executed an oil and gas lease to a company that assigned 2,300 acres of Petitioners' tract to Respondent for a storage project. Respondent then applied to FERC for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to construct and operate a storage field. Petitioners intervened in the FERC proceeding. FERC eventually granted Respondent's request. When Respondent did not complete construction of the storage facility within the required amount of time it sought a three-year extension. Petitioners opposed the extension, and FERC denied Respondent's request to extend the timeframe. Thereafter, Petitioners filed suit against Respondent alleging breach of contract and seeking declaratory judgment. Respondent filed a counterclaim alleging, inter alia, breach of contract. Petitioners filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that they were immune from suit pursuant to the litigation privilege and the Noerr-Pennington doctrine. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the litigation privilege and Noerr-Pennington doctrine provided Petitioners with immunity from all of Respondent's counterclaims. View "Smith v. Chestnut Ridge Storage, LLC" on Justia Law
Ascent Resources – Marcellus, LLC v. Huffman
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying the motion filed by Plaintiff, an oil and gas drilling company, for summary judgment and denying Plaintiff a favorable declaratory judgment, holding that the circuit court did not err in refusing to imply into an existing oil and gas lease a covenant to pool and unitize the lease with nearby mineral estates.Plaintiff brought this action seeking a declaration that the oil and gas lease at issue contained an implied covenant to pool or unitize the lease with other mineral interests. The circuit court rejected Plaintiff's request for a declaratory judgment, holding that the circuit court correctly concluded that there can be no implied covenant to pool or unitize in the absence of language in the lease showing the parties contemplated that a lessor has a right to pool and unitize the lease with other estates. View "Ascent Resources - Marcellus, LLC v. Huffman" on Justia Law
EQT Production Co. v. Antero Resources Corp.
The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting Antero Resources Corporation partial summary judgment on its claim for declaratory judgment, holding that the court did not err in concluding that the Antero top lease took priority over the EQT Production Company base lease covering the same property.Larry and Linda Lemasters, who owned the oil and gas underlying a tract of land, entered into an oil and gas lease (the base lease) with an LLC that later assigned the lease to EQT. The Lemasters subsequently entered into an oil and gas lease with Antero (the top lease). The lease was made effective immediately upon expiration of the primary term of the base lease. The Lemasters and EQT (together, Defendants) subsequently entered into a base lease amendment agreeing to extend the primary term of the base lease. Antero filed a complaint against Defendants asserting claims for, inter alia, breach of contract and declaratory judgment. The circuit court awarded summary judgment for Antero on its declaratory judgment claim, determining that the base lease and its amendment were subject to the Antero top lease. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court did not err in declaring that the top lease was the valid and existing oil and gas lease covering the subject property. View "EQT Production Co. v. Antero Resources Corp." on Justia Law
Bison Interests, LLC, v. Antero Resources Corp.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment for Antero Resources Corp. and declaring that Bison Interests, LLC was entitled to no overriding royalty interest in the Marcellus shale formation underlying certain gas wells, holding that the declaratory judgment sought by Antero was barred by the doctrines of res judicata and judicial estoppel.The circuit court found Antero's action was barred neither by res judicata nor collateral estoppel because the issue of Bison's entitlement to an overriding royalty in the Marcellus shale production had not been finally adjudicated in prior litigation. The court further found that Antero was not judicially estopped from bringing its claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Antero's action for declaratory relief was barred by the doctrine of res judicata; and (2) Antero's action was similarly, and independently, barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel. View "Bison Interests, LLC, v. Antero Resources Corp." on Justia Law
SWN Production Co., LLC. v. Conley
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying SWN Production Company's motion to intervene in an action seeking to quiet title to a parcel of property brought by Corey Conley, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion and erred as a matter of law.The underlying action involved competing claims and interests in the mineral rights to Conley's property. SWN asserted that it had interests in oil and gas properties that would be affected by interpretation of the relevant deed. After Conley filed his complaint, SWN filed a motion to intervene, which the circuit court denied. Thereafter, SWN entered into an oil and gas lease with Conley. SWN then filed a second motion to intervene, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the circuit court (1) abused its discretion in determining that the SWN motion to intervene was untimely; and (2) erred as a matter of law in finding that SWN had no property interest relating to the subject of the complaint, that disposition of the civil action would not impair or impede SWN's ability to protect its interests, and that SWN's interests were adequately protected by Conley. View "SWN Production Co., LLC. v. Conley" on Justia Law
Posted in: Energy, Oil & Gas Law