I report herein on 2018’s parade of reprobates, rapscallions and others generally lacking in moral hygiene.  We reflect on a mother’s love, corruption in Venezuela, a disloyal employee, stealing from friends, a disgraced politician, and the wisdom of Forrest Gump.

Perp: Carol Faulkner

Violation: Not a crime but worthy of your consideration for its shamelessness. A “mendacious filing” in a an SEC civil enforcement action against Chris Faulkner, and she “repeatedly and willfully abused the judicial system” in connection with his fraud case.

Sentence: Sanctioned $5,205.50. This was after she was held in civil contempt and fled to Lebanon.

Titillating fact: This is the Frack Master’s OWN MOTHER. Merle was right; Mama failed … in so many ways.

_________

Perps: In “Operation Money Flight“, seven defendants (six Venezuelians and a Swiss banker), nine co-conspirators, and three unnamed “government officials”. Continue Reading 2018’s Bad Guys in Energy

Co-author Nikki Niloufar Hafizi

From the state of Washington to the streets of Paris, proposed taxes on carbon have been making headlines. Why a carbon tax, and what are the arguments for and against it?

Pricing carbon

A progressive carbon tax is a climate-change mitigation policy preferred by many economists. Their reasoning goes like this: Carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions contribute to collective problems such as air pollution and climate change, but the entities emitting the GHGs don’t pay for the damage to the “atmospheric commons”. The price of GHG-emitting activities is lower than its theoretical market price should be, and humans consume more than they otherwise would of these GHG-intensive products and services (think gasoline). A tax on carbon content would correct this market failure and incentivize market participants (consumers and producers … such as yourself?) to emit less carbon by changing their behavior and using different technologies. Continue Reading Carbon Taxes: Wrong Price, Wrong Time?

Co-author Isreal Miller

Local taxing authorities frequently look to out-of-towners to bear what the locals consider the outsiders’ fair share of the burdens of increased oil and gas activity. The counties are often small and rural. (See the Dimmit County road tax).You can’t blame them, but  Reeves County (county seat: Pecos, 2010 pop. 13,783), Loving (county seat: Mentone, 2010 pop. 1,340), and Ward (county seat: Monahans, 2010 pop. 10,658) have been reminded by the big guys and gals in Austin that these efforts are not likely to succeed. It didn’t work for Huey Long and it isn’t working well now.

The Texas Supreme Court issued four opinions addressing the taxation of compressors used to deliver natural gas into pipelines: All four were consolidated for briefing with another case, EXLP Leasing, LLC v. Galveston Central Appraisal District. EXLP v. Galveston addressed most, if not all, of the issues raised in each of the four cases at hand. Specifically, the court upheld Texas Tax Code § 23.1241(b), which values the compressors based on the lease revenue they generated during the previous tax year divided by twelve. EXLP v. Galveston also determined that the taxable situs for the compressors was the county in which EXLP Leasing maintained a business address and storage yard (Washington County) and not in the various counties in which the equipment might otherwise be physically located or leased (e.g., Galveston County). Continue Reading Local Taxation of Oil and Gas Activities Fails Again

In a ruling that could benefit mineral owners who don’t regularly examine county deed records (to-wit, you?) the Supreme Court of Texas in Carl M. Archer Trust No. Three et al v. Tregellas held that the discovery rule delayed the running of the statute of limitations on behalf of the holder of a recorded right of first refusal to purchase mineral interests.

The trustees sued the Tregellases for buying the minerals without allowing the Trust to exercise its ROFR, contending that a contract was formed when they sued more than four years after the Tregellases’ purchase; the suit was their acceptance of the right to purchase the minerals, they said.

According to the Trellgases, the claim was barred by limitations because the suit was filed more than four years after the sale. The trustees responded that even if that were so, limitations should be delayed because they they had no obligation to search the county deed records.

The discovery rule described … Continue Reading Texas High Court Invokes the Discovery Rule

In Frederick v. Allegheny Township Zoning Hearing Board, et al, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed a local zoning ordinance allowing oil and gas operations in all zoning districts in the Township as long as they satisfied enumerated standards that were designed to protect the public health, safety and welfare of the citizenry.

Facts and Findings

CNX received a permit to drill a well. The ordinance imposes a 1,000 foot setback and prescribes notice requirements and operational limitations. Citizens owning neighboring tracts complained that the well was not compatible with agricultural and residential use, complaining about noise from pad site preparation and drilling activities.

The objectors did not challenge the Zoning Board’s fact findings. That was either a tactical mistake or a lost cause. One can’t tell from the opinion. The court noted these findings, among others:

  • This is an area that has historically had gas production. There are 242 conventional gas wells in the Township, some of which employ hydraulic fracturing.
  • One farm already has three gas wells plainly visible to persons driving by the property.
  • Nothing will be visible to the neighbors after the well has been drilled and completed.
  • The Zoning Board rejected as not credible the testimony of several experts sponsored by the objectors.

Continue Reading Man Bites Dog – Local Zoning Board Okays Drilling-Friendly Ordinance

Co-author Ethan Wood

In Texas losing a title dispute doesn’t mean you committed myriad heinous torts by asserting your rights in the first place. The test: Were you reasonable in bringing your colorable but not correct claim? So says Dorfman v. J P Morgan Chase Bank, NA. Continue Reading Asserting a Losing Title Claim Isn’t (Always) Tortious

Any semblance of objectivity on the subject of the day is expressly disclaimed. This post contains distressing words, such as “oil and gas”, “fracking” and “jobs” that could cause severe emotional reactions in sensitive readers. If this post is contrary to your firmly held beliefs, proceed promptly to your downward facing dog.

As a thoughtful reader you might ask, Why should I vote against Proposition 112? Here are a few reasons: Continue Reading Colorado Proposition 112 – More Fuss

Co-author Chance Decker

It’s a tale as old as the oilfield: A non-operator doesn’t pay joint interest billings, operator sues, non-payer claims the expenses were unwarranted and the operator was negligent—no, grossly negligent—for incurring them in the first place. Welcome to OBO, Inc. v. Apache Corporation et al. Despite a creative argument by non-operator OBO that contract operator Apache didn’t have authority to charge JIB’s in the first place, OBO must pay.

The facts Continue Reading Contract Operator Not Liable for Breach of a Unit Operating Agreement

Referred to as the Setback Requirement for Oil and Gas Development, here is what Colorado voters will be asked to consider on November 6:

Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning a statewide minimum distance requirement for new oil and gas development, and, in connection therewith, changing existing distance requirements to require that any new oil and gas development be located at least 2,500 feet from any occupied structure in any area designated for additional protection and authorizing a state or a local government to increase the minimum distance requirement?

“Any area designated for additional protection” has been described as “sensitive areas”, such as “streams, intermittent streams, canals, and open spaces”. Current setbacks are 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools. Continue Reading Colorado Proposition 112: What’s the Fuss About?

Co-author Lydia Webb

Q: How many New York federal judges does it take to make a mess of Texas property law?

A: In In Re: Sabine Oil and Gas Corp., five. One to get it wrong, another to affirm the wrongness, and three more for reinforcement.

For the third time, a federal court in New York has allowed an E&P debtor to reject its gas gathering agreements because its midstream counter-parties could not establish that the agreements were covenants running with the land under Texas law. This time it was the Second Circuit, which upheld a district court ruling, which upheld a  bankruptcy court ruling.

E&P debtor Sabine sought to reject a series of above-market gas gathering agreements. The bankruptcy court allowed the debtor to do exactly that, over the objection of the midstream counter-party. The question on appeal: Under Texas law, are midstream agreements covenants running with the land (and thus, cannot be rejected in bankruptcy)?

This result could have wide-reaching negative effects on the oil and gas industry.  We won’t delve deep into the weeds of the legal analysis.  But we will raise a serious question about the process.

Horizontal privity?

The key question was whether Texas law requires a showing of horizontal privity as part of the covenant analysis.  The New York courts concluded that Texas requires horizontal privity, which was not satisfied under the present circumstances. This allowed Sabine to escape from its midstream agreements.

Horizontal privity requires that the parties make their covenant in connection with, and at the same time as, a conveyance of real property.  The Second Circuit acknowledged that the trend across the country is to do away with the horizontal privity requirement. However, the Court went on to rationalize that “[i]t would be improper for us to read a traditional requirement of real covenants out of Texas state law when there is no Texas law instructing courts to do so.”

The maddening reality

The test, according to the Texas Supreme Court, does not include horizontal privity as a requirement for a covenant to run with the land!

Rather than opining on the nuances of Texas property law, the Second Circuit could have (and should have) certified the question to the Texas Supreme Court so that the law could be uniformly applied by all federal courts in similar cases arising from contracts for the transportation or sale of Texas oil and gas production.  This option would have made the most sense and was proposed by several trade groups.

The Texas high court, the ultimate authority on Texas common law, should decide what it takes to constitute a covenant running with the land in this state – not a federal court sitting thousands of miles away and not at all versed in Texas property law. Leave it to the experts and let Texas tell the world how its laws should be interpreted and enforced.

Railroaded?