HOUSTON — The CEO for a hydraulic fracturing company on May 16 filed a declaration in federal bankruptcy court in Texas despite listing more assets than liabilities, citing the “precipitous decline” in oil prices related to the novel coronavirus pandemic and “the flooding of oil markets” by its competitors (In re: Gavilan Resources LLC, No. 20-32656, S.D. Texas Bkcy.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The solicitor for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) on May 26 sent a memorandum to officials in the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and in the DOI’s Office of Land and Minerals Management announcing his conclusion that the state of North Dakota is the legal owner of the mineral rights in submerged lands beneath the Missouri River where it flows through a Native American reservation.
TULSA, Okla. — An oil well services company on May 28 sued a hydraulic fracturing operator in Oklahoma federal court contending that it breached the agreement between the parties by failing to pay for services rendered at multiple fracking well sites (Key Energy LLC, et al. v. Ram Energy LLC, No. 20-236, N.D. Okla.).
GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Two Native American tribes sued the U.S. government May 29 in Montana federal court seeking to stop construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline, saying that recent approvals for the work were granted improperly and that pipeline worker-filled “man camps” are a threat to Indian women and could spread the novel coronavirus to the tribes’ members, including its sacred elders and many with health problems (Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 4:20-cv-00044, D. Mont.).
GREAT FALLS, Mont. — A federal judge in Montana on May 22 vacated federal leases sold for the purpose of hydraulic fracturing, ruling that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated federal law when it approved them and holding that the BLM cannot receive deference for its interpretation of a 2015 plan that was developed to protect the habitat of the greater sage-grouse (Montana Wildlife Federation v. David Bernhardt, et al., No. 18-69, D. Mont.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump administration on May 22 filed a brief in District of Columbia federal court arguing that the president’s declaration reducing the size of two national monuments was a valid exercise of the power delegated to him under the Antiquities Act and that the case brought by environmental groups opposing the reduction should be dismissed (The Wilderness Society, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2587, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2591, D. D.C. [consolidated]).
SAN FRANCISCO — Advocates for the environment on May 22 filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals contending that a district court correctly held that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to perform “a full and proper analysis” of the environmental impact that would be caused by construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and, therefore, the permit allowing the construction is “unlawful” and the Army Corps’ motion to stay the ruling is “unwarranted” (Northern Plains Resource Council, et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 20-35412, 9th Cir.).
HOUSTON — A debtor hydraulic fracturing sand company on May 20 filed a brief in federal bankruptcy court in Texas contending that it should deny a motion by the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors (CUC) seeking to compel the production of documents because the information and the quantity of material sought “go far beyond what is reasonable and proportional under the circumstances” (In re CARBO Ceramics Inc., No. 20-31973, S.D. Texas Bkcy.).
JACKSON, Miss. — Creditors of a hydraulic fracturing company on May 15 filed a brief in federal bankruptcy court in Mississippi supporting their motion to dismiss the company’s Chapter 11 case or, alternatively, to transfer the case to another jurisdiction, on grounds that the parties remain involved in “lengthy litigation” in Texas state court (In Re: Amazing Energy Holdings, LLC, No. 20-1245, S.D. Miss. Bkcy.).
PHILADELPHIA — A panel of the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on May 19 issued a precedential opinion in which it vacated and remanded a district court’s decision regarding the rights of three Pennsylvania state senators to intervene in a dispute over hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River Basin (DRB), ruling that “the District Court is best positioned” to resolve the issue (Wayne Land and Mineral Group LLC v. Delaware River Basin Commission, No. 19-2354, 3rd Cir.).
BISMARCK, N.D. — A Native American tribe on May 12 filed a brief in North Dakota federal court contending that it has jurisdiction over a hydraulic fracturing drilling project pursuant to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and says a local director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) abused her discretion when she approved the fracking permit for the project in question (Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara Nation v. United States Department of the Interior, et al., No. 19-37, D. N.D.).
SAN FRANCISCO — A panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on May 14 denied the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers an immediate administrative stay but set a briefing schedule for the Army Corp’s emergency motion for a stay regarding a district court’s decision that the permit for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline violates federal law is “deeply flawed.” The groups said the Army Corps failed to provide support for its request (Northern Plains Resource Council, et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 20-35412, 9th Cir.).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on May 13 refused a petition to hear an appeal dealing with the rights of property owners to develop their mineral resources through hydraulic fracturing, letting stand an appellate panel’s ruling that a local municipality’s zoning decision properly balanced those rights with the need to ensure the health and welfare of the community (Protect PT v. Penn Township Zoning Hearing Board, et al., No. 446 WAL 2019, Pa. Sup.).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on May 12 filed an amicus curiae brief in Pennsylvania federal court contending that the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River Basin (DRB) because fracking well pads constitute a “project” under an agreement pertaining to activity in the DRB. Moreover, the NRDC says that fracking activity threatens the health of drinking water and must be regulated (Wayne Land and Mineral Group LLC v. Delaware River Basin Commission, No. 16-897, M.D. Pa.).
BILLINGS, Mont. — A hydraulic fracturing well operator on April 24 sued an energy company in Montana federal court, contending that it breached an agreement between the parties when the energy company failed to pay the well operator for its share of the proceeds from the sale of the oil and gas produced by the well (Samson Oil And Gas USA Inc. v. XTO Energy Inc., No. 20-54, D. Mont.).
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A hydraulic fracturing company on April 23 filed an amicus curiae brief in the Ohio Supreme Court in support of mineral lease holders who contend that a lower court correctly held that their royalty interests had not been extinguished by Ohio’s governing law with regard to the abandonment of mineral interests (Wayne L. West, et al. v. C.J. Bode, et al., No. 2019-1494, Ohio Sup.).
ALEXANDRIA, La. — A hydraulic fracturing company sued for the recovery of money spent on drilling costs on April 17 moved in Louisiana federal court for dismissal of the complaint on grounds that the plaintiff failed to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and because the plaintiff did not comply with statutory requirements pertaining to the fracking wells in question (Limekiln Development Inc. v. XTO Energy Inc., No. 20-145, W.D. La.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Environmental groups on April 13 filed a brief in District of Columbia federal court, contending that the Antiquities Act does not permit a president to “un-declare” objects of antiquity from being national monuments and that there is “no credible support” for the defendants’ efforts to “ignore the simple and clear statutory text and purpose and instead invent extensive new presidential powers” (The Wilderness Society, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2587, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2591, D. D.C. [consolidated]).
OKLAHOMA CITY — Exxon Mobil Corp. on April 27 filed a brief in Oklahoma federal court contending that a hydraulic fracturing lease dispute should not be remanded to state court because the requirements of the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) have been met (Fred A. Fischer, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al., No. 20-105, W.D. Okla.).
MOUNT VERNON, Ill. — In an unpublished opinion delivered April 21, an Illinois appellate panel ruled that a hydraulic fracturing company’s takings claim with regard to its oil and gas rights was unripe because it never applied for a permit under the requirements of a state act that went into effect during the company’s application process (Next Energy LLC v Department of Natural Resources, No. 5-18-0582, Ill. App., 5th Dist., 2020 Ill. App. Unpub. LEXIS 659).