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Showing 23 posts in Energy.

This Blog Post was authored by Omar Khodor, a summer associate.

On June 23, 2021, the Ninth Circuit, in directing the lower court to dismiss a citizen’s suit claim under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), held that the CWA did not abrogate tribal sovereign immunity. Deschutes River All. v. Portland Gen. Elec. Co., No. 18-35867, 2021 WL 2559477 (9th Cir. June 23, 2021). To abrogate a Tribe’s sovereign immunity, the Ninth Circuit explained that a statute must convey “perfect confidence” that Congress intended to abrogate tribal sovereign immunity. Id. at 14. It further found that the CWA does not unequivocally do so because Section 1365 – a section explicitly dealing with United States and governmental sovereign immunity – does not mention tribal sovereign immunity. Id. at 15-16. Rather, Section 1365 states that “any citizen may commence a civil action on his own behalf . . . against any person (including (i) the United States, and (ii) any other governmental instrumentality or agency to the extent permitted by the eleventh amendment to the Constitution).” 33 U.S.C. § 1365. Although Section 1362(5) of the CWA goes on to define “any person” as a municipality (among other things), and Section 1362(4) further defines a “municipality” as including an “Indian Tribe or an authorized Indian Tribal organization,” the court determined that Congress had not clearly intended to abrogate tribal sovereign immunity because Tribes are not included in Section 1365. Deschutes River All., 2021 WL 2559477 at *15-16. Read More »

On June 25, 2021, the Supreme Court, reversing the Tenth Circuit, held that a small refinery that had previously received an exemption from certain requirements of the renewable fuel standard (“RFS”) program was eligible for an extension of that exemption, even if it had had a lapse in coverage in previous years. See HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining, LLC, v. Renewable Fuels Association, et al., Slip Op. 20-472 (June 25, 2021). Petitioners, three small fuel refineries, had each applied for a hardship exemption under the RFS program, and the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) had granted each request. Those exemptions were then challenged by a group of renewable fuel producers. The Tenth Circuit ultimately sided with the renewable fuel producers, holding that because each refinery had allowed its previously held exemption to lapse at times in the past, each was no longer eligible to receive an extension of the original exemption. After hearing oral argument in April 2021, the Supreme Court reversed the Tenth Circuit and held that the text of the statute does not require that the exemption be continually held in order to remain valid. Read More »

On May 17, 2021, the Supreme Court vacated an appellate court decision which had remanded to state court an action seeking to hold petroleum companies liable for the effects of climate change, finding that the appellate court impermissibly restricted the scope of its review of a district court’s order. Although, as noted by the Supreme Court, “[t]he only question before us is one of civil procedure,” the case of BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, Docket No. 19-1189 (May 17, 2021) may have a profound practical impact on ongoing environmental litigation. Read More »

Last week, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan refused to void a private settlement agreement entered between Sierra Club and DTE in the face of an objection by the United States that the settlement agreement interfered with a related consent decree and infringed on the government’s enforcement authority. United States v. DTE Energy Co., et al., No. 10-CV-13101 (E.D. Mich. Dec. 3, 2020). Read More »

On February 21, 2020, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court dismissed a claim brought by a group of municipalities alleging that a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) regulation governing the siting of gas meters failed to sufficiently protect historic resources under Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, also known as the Environmental Rights Amendment (ERA). See City of Lancaster, et al. v. Pa. Pub. Util. Comm’n, No. 251 MD 2019 (Pa. Cmwlth. Feb. 21, 2020). Read More »

In a split 3-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the rule of capture applies to gas wells completed using hydraulic fracturing, though the Court’s holding was limited by the undeveloped factual record in the case. See Briggs v. Southwestern Energy Production Co., No. 63 MAP 2018 (Pa. Jan. 22, 2020). With the Court’s decision, Pennsylvania joins Texas and other states that have applied the rule of capture to hydraulic fracturing. The narrow scope of the Court’s holding, however, makes it almost certain that neighboring landowners will continue to assert trespass and conversion claims against developers in Pennsylvania engaging in hydraulic fracturing until the law is further developed. Read More »

The adage “you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube” has manifested itself in two recent federal court decisions. Under separate theories, both the Second Circuit and the District Court of the District of Columbia have issued decisions that highlight the difficulty environmental groups faced in challenging energy infrastructure projects that have been completed during the course of litigation. Read More »

Last month in a 2-1 split, the Third Circuit held that state, not federal, law determined how much a landowner was entitled to as just compensation in condemnation proceedings brought by private entities under the Natural Gas Act of 1938. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., LLC v. Permanent Easement for 7.053 Acres, No. 17-3700 (3d Cir. July 23, 2019). The precedential decision will force natural gas companies to account for differences in state law in negotiations with landowners over what constitutes “just compensation” for a taking.   Read More »

Two recent decisions from two different states, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, suggest that courts are becoming increasingly skeptical of landowners seeking to capitalize on oil and gas companies utilizing horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to access resources under the property of the landowners. Read More »

In Kerns v. Chesapeake Exploration, LLC, No. 18-3636 (6th Cir. Feb. 4, 2019), released on Monday, February 4, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a pipeline’s use of Ohio’s forced pooling law is not a taking under the Fourteenth Amendment. This decision, although not recommended for full text publication, is significant as more states enact and/or expand the scope of such laws, and may influence a similar suit brought in Colorado, within the Tenth Circuit, challenging the constitutionality of Colorado’s forced pooling regulations.  Read More »