Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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This dispute arose from violations issued by the Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration. At issue was whether the word "corporation" includes limited liability companies (LLCs) for purposes of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (the Mine Act), 30 U.S.C. 801 et seq. The court concluded that the terms "corporation" and "corporate operator" in the Mine Act are ambiguous. Applying Chevron deference, the court concluded that the Secretary's interpretation is reasonable where, most importantly, construing section 110(c) to include agents of LLCs is consistent with the legislative history. Therefore, the court held that an LLC is a corporation for purposes of the Mine Act and that section 110(c) can be used to assess civil penalties against agents of an LLC. Because substantial evidence supported the ALJ's decision to hold petitioners personally liable for the order at issue, the court affirmed on this issue. Finally, the order underlying their civil penalties was not duplicative. Accordingly, the court affirmed the ALJ's decision.View "Sumpter, et al. v. Secretary of Labor, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Alabama Power on their complaint alleging that Alabama Power unreasonably lowered the water levels of Smith Lake. Determining that Article III's standing requirements have been met, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to issue a declaratory judgment concerning plaintiffs' purported riparian rights. Plaintiffs did not have a right to a declaratory judgment and the district court did not abuse its substantial discretion by assuming plaintiffs had riparian rights and then resolving their claims on an alternative basis. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiffs' claims were a collateral attack on the FERC's final relicensing determination. Plaintiffs' argument that they were not subject to the exclusive judicial review provision of section 825l(b) of the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. 825l(b), because they are distinct parties from Smith Lake Improvement and Stakeholders Association (SLISA) and did not participate in the proceedings before the FERC was unavailing. Section 821 of the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. 821, did not allow plaintiffs to veto the operation of a project that was approved and licensed by the FERC. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment denying plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment and granting summary judgment to Alabama Power. View "Otwell, Sr., et al. v. Alabama Power Co." on Justia Law

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The issue before the Eleventh Circuit concerned a challenge to an exploratory drilling plan under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OSCLA). The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approved the Shell Exploration Plan S-7444 (Shell EP) to conduct drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The Plan covered ten exploratory wells on offshore Alabama leases in the central Gulf. This case was a consolidated appeal in which Petitioners the Defenders of Wildlife, the Gulf Restoration Network and others filed comments on the Shell EP, participated in the ancillary administrative proceedings, and then filed a petition with the Court for review. The only issues for the Court's review were whether the Shell EP violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). After review of the parties' briefs and the record below, the Court denied the petition for review, finding the BOEM's decision to approve the Shell EP was not arbitrary or capricious and instead, "reflected the agency's balance of environmental concerns with the expeditious and orderly exploration of resources in the Gulf of Mexico." View "Defenders of Wildlife, et al v. Bureau of Ocean Energy Managem, et al" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Parties, Gwinnett County, Georgia, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) appealed from a grant of summary judgment in this consolidated suit arising from more than 20 years of litigation between the parties. All of the underlying cases related to the Corps' authority to operate the Buford Dam and Lake Lanier, the reservoir it created, for local water supply. On appeal, the parties raised several jurisdictional matters and asserted a number of substantive claims. The court held that the district court erred in finding that it had jurisdiction to hear certain parties because the Corps had not taken final agency action. The court also held that the district court and the Corps erred in concluding that water supply was not an authorized purpose of the Buford Project under the Rivers and Harbors Act (RHA), Pub. L. No. 79-525, 60 Stat. 634. The court also held that the district court erred in finding that the 1956 Act expired after 50 years. The court also provided certain instructions to the Corps on remand and the Corps shall have one year to make a final determination of its authority to operate the Buford Project under the RHA and the Water Supply Act, 43 U.S.C. 390b(a).