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Interesting to realize that United States has overtaken Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s largest oil and gas producer and continues to lead in production. On April 7, 2016, the U.S. Energy Information Administration released a report showing the United States remained the world’s largest producer in 2014 despite the decline in oil prices that occurred during the second half of 2014. In that year, the United States produced almost double the amount of oil and gas that was produced by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia produces mostly oil and a small amount of gas while the production in the United States and Russia is balanced, with about half of the production coming from gas, and the other half from oil.

Why The Increase In The US?

The report credits the increase in production of both oil and gas directly to the United States’ ability to exploit tight oil and shale gas formations. Last year the United States produced over 3.1 billion barrels of crude oil, an 18% increase from the 2.7 billion barrels produced in 2013. The increase in hydrocarbon production over the last several years is credited to the increase in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing which allows production from unconventional reserves which were previously uneconomical to produce.

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No question about it: Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath have been horrible. It will be a very long time before things return to anything like “normal” for a lot of people. One of the few things that bring a smile these days is the amount of volunteer effort going on in response to the hurricane. Boaters across Texas hauled out their boats, headed to Houston and have been rescuing people. Churches, businesses and public institutions open their doors to serve as shelters. Nonprofit rural water and electric co-ops all over Texas are sending their crews and equipment to help the local crews in Southeast Texas restore water and power service.

One of the things I was intrigued to learn is that Anheuser-Busch has a history of producing water for disaster situations and Hurricane Harvey is no exception. When disaster strikes the company halts their production at its Cartersville, Georgia brewery and begins canning drinking water instead. So far, they’ve delivered over 410,000 cans of safe drinking water to the Gulf Coast. According to their website, they’ve been doing this since 1988. In 2016, Anheuser-Busch produced and shipped emergency drinking water to the California wildfire area, as well as areas impacted by the Louisiana floods and Hurricane Matthew.

Yes, I realize it’s good PR. But it’s also a really nice thing to do. Texans are tough and we will recover from this. However, it sure is nice to have the help!

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In a case that could have a substantial impact on the rights of Texas mineral right and landowners, the Supreme Court of Texas recently heard the oral arguments in the case of Atmos Energy Corporation et al v. Town of DISH, et al. The case involves the residents of DISH, Texas– named after the cable television provider–who are seeking are damages for nuisance and injuries. The town claims that the oil pipeline company’s operation of gathering and compression facilities near the town has resulted in adverse health effects to its residents. This case is of particular importance because it calls into question whether a company operating legally and within government regulation can still be liable for damages for trespass and nuisance .

Background

The dispute between the Town of DISH and various pipeline companies began in 2005 when pipeline companies began constructing a compressor outside the town.  Initially, the residents of DISH complained of odors and excessive noise, and in 2008 the town issuedfiled a complaint with the Texas Commission On Environmental Quality (TCEQ). However, after investigations in 2009 and 2010, the TCEQ concluded that the facilities would not cause the effects the residents of DISH complained about.

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When a crime occurs on someone else’s property, who is liable for the harm caused by that crime? Of course, the person who committed the act of crime should be held accountable, but does a property owner have any sort of obligation to a crime victim? Does a property owner have a duty to protect third parties from falling victim to crimes committed on their property?

Man Victimized By Crime In The Parking Lot of An Apartment Complex

The Texas Supreme Court recently weighed in on this issue in UDR Texas Properties LP et al. v. Alan Petrie. In this case, Petrie was waiting for a coworker at The Gallery apartment complex, which is owned by UDR Texas Properties. Petrie was attending a party at the apartment complex, but needed to be let into the gated facility and so was in the process of calling someone to give him access.  The visitor parking area was not gated. While he was on the phone, a vehicle pulled up behind Petrie’s vehicle and blocked him in. Two men exited the vehicle and pointed a rifle at Petrie, telling him to get out of the car and to give up his wallet and keys. When Petrie did not get to the ground fast enough for his assailants, the gunman shot Petrie.

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With so many new oil and gas pipelines being constructed presently in Texas, the Texas Supreme Court’s timing for additional guidance on when a pipeline company is a common carrier in the case of Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas L.L.C. v. Texas Rice Land Partners Ltd, et al. could not be more appropriate. A second opinion in that case focuses on when a pipeline company can be considered a “common carrier”, a status that grants the company the right to exercise eminent domain powers.

The Denbury Pipeline case has been making its way through the Texas court system for a number of years and this is not the first time that some aspect of the case has been heard by the Texas Supreme Court. In 2012, in Texas Rice Land Partners Ltd, et al v. Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas L.L.C.,  the Texas Supreme Court articulated a standard based on the Texas Natural Resources Code to determine when a pipeline company can have common carrier status. The standard or test is referred to as the Texas Rice I test. At the time, the Texas Supreme Court did not apply the test to the facts of the case, but instead reversed and remanded the case to the trial court for proceedings consistent with the common-carrier test it established, thus “affording Denbury Green the opportunity to produce reasonable proof of a future customer, thus demonstrating that [the pipeline] will indeed transport to or for the public for hire and is not limited in [its] use to the wells, stations, plants, and refineries of the owner.”

Test Under Texas Rice I

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The Texas A&M School of Law, in Fort Worth, Texas will be hosting the Eighth Energy Law Symposium on March 23 and 24, 2017.

The energy industry in the United States and globally is facing multiple transitions and fluctuation. The downturn in the oil market ha​s caused numerous bankruptcies; OPEC recently agreed to reduce production; the US is now a net exporter of gas and refined petroleum products; energy from renewable sources in the US now surpasses ​16 percent of total generation; and the Trump presidency promises to create new opportunities and challenges for the industry.

In assessing these factors and projecting where the global energy regime might go, Texas A&M University will host the 2017 Energy Law Symposium on “The Future of Energy”. The symposium, scheduled for March 23–24, 2017, will convene industry experts, academic commentators and public officials to discuss a wide range of issues bearing on anticipated needs, policy challenges and proposed reforms in the U.S. and global energy markets. Panel, debate and keynote sessions will address legislative and regulatory priorities, power generation, allocation wells, transboundary resource management, environmental considerations, bankruptcy and much more. Please join us as we explore “The Future of Energy”. Registration is $50 or $150  if you want CLE credit (12.75 CLE credit hours pending approval).

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The Texas 14th Court of Appeals recently decided the case an interesting case,  Clay Exploration, Inc. v. Santa Rosa Operating, LLC, concerning who has the right to execute oil and gas leases for unknown owners. In 1889 Frederick Kastan and Gustav Heye purchased 102 acres in Grimes County, Texas. Subsequently, Kastan left Texas and moved to Germany. In 1999, after conducting an unsuccessful effort to locate Kastan or his heirs, Marathon Oil petitioned a local court for a receiver to sign oil and gas leases for the 102 acres purchased by Kastan and Heye. Marathon’s petition requested that the receiver “take charge of and execute an oil, gas, and mineral lease, or leases” on behalf of unknown owners of the mineral rights, which included Kastan and his unknown heirs. This is pretty standard practice in Texas when an oil company can’t locate all the owners. The trial court appointed a receiver, Charles Ketchum, and ordered Ketchum to execute mineral leases with Marathon. The Marathon leases required Marathon to drill and produce within three to five years or the lease would expire.

Apparently the Marathon leases expired, and in 2011 two new oil companies, Clay Exploration, Inc. and Santa Rosa Operating, LLC decided they wanted to lease the 102 acres.  Santa Rosa petitioned a local court to appoint another receiver to lease the Kastan mineral rights. While the Santa Rosa petition was pending, Clay Exploration contacted the original receiver, Ketchum, who signed a lease with Clay in January 2012.

In April 2012 Santa Rosa intervened in the original Marathon receivership action, alleging that Ketchum had only been authorized to sign a lease with Marathon and no one else. Meanwhile, Santa Rosa located the unknown Kastan heirs and obtained leases directly from them. Santa Rosa filed a motion to set aside and invalidate the Clay leases on the grounds that Clay was aware that the Kastan heirs were no longer unknown and that Ketchum was authorized to sign a lease only with Marathon.” Santa Rosa also alleged that Marathon never drilled or operated on the tracts, although there was apparently no evidence on this. In response, Clay filed a motion to confirm the lease they signed with Ketchum.

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In September 2015, the Texas Governor signed into law Texas Senate Bill 478 , which adds  Section 22.019 to Chapter 22, Subchapter A, of the Government Code. The new law reads as follows:

Sec. 22.019. PROMULGATION OF CERTAIN LANDLORD-TENANT FORMS. (a) The supreme court shall, as the court finds appropriate, promulgate forms for use by individuals representing themselves in residential landlord-tenant matters and instructions for the proper use of each form or set of forms.

(b) The forms and instructions must:

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In 2015, Enterprise Product Partners announced plans for a new pipeline that will run over 400 miles from Midland, Texas to Sealy, Texas. The yet-to-be-named pipeline will originate at Enterprise Product Partners’ trading and storage hub in Midland and will connect with the eighty mile Rancho II pipeline in Sealy. The Rancho II pipeline came on line in 2015 and will connect Sealy with the storage hub, the Enterprise Crude Houston Oil (“ECHO”) terminal, located in the southeast of Houston, Texas. The ECHO terminal was developed by Enterprise Product Partners in 2010 and functions as a central storage and distribution hub. The connection to ECHO will allow Enterprise Product Partners to access the Gulf of Mexico via Texas City. Enterprise is planning on continuing to take advantage of a recently passed exception to the 1970’s crude export ban by offering approved processed condensate at the Gulf. Currently Enterprise Product Partners is one of the most active condensate exporters in the region.figure1_148

The unnamed pipeline will have a capacity of 540 million barrels per day and is expected to come on line in the second quarter of 2017. The new pipeline will be capable of segregated transport and used to transport four different grades of crude: West Texas Sour, West Texas Intermediate, Light West Texas Intermediate, and condensate. The pipeline will be fed by both tanker trucks and pipelines that currently terminate at the Midland Hub. A map of the currently proposed pipeline which was presented in an Enterprise Product Partners presentation is shown to the right.

If you live in one of the counties through which this pipeline will be installed, you may be getting a call from a land man representing Enterprise. Keep in mind that there are many legal and safety issues involved in having a pipeline installed across your property. In addition, there is no such thing as a “standard pipeline easement form”despite what the land man may tell you. You and your property are best served by seeking the input of an experienced Texas oil and gas pipeline attorney to assist you in evaluating the easement offer and in getting just compensation for the easement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There has been an ongoing debate about whether hydraulic fracturing activities for producing oil and gas have an impact on drinking water supplies near and around the fracing site. Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Science Advisory Board (SAB) raised a number of questions concerning the EPA’s June 2015 draft report on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracing on drinking water supplies.

The SAB prepared a 180-page peer-review report that you can read here addressing the EPA’s 2015 draft report. The SAB found a number of aspects of the EPA’s draft report to be critically deficient. Below is an overview of some of the the SAB’s report’s findings. In particular, the SAB noted that:

  • The EPA’s conclusions drawn about the widespread and systemic impacts that fracing has on the quality of drinking water resources were not quantitatively supported and lacked evidence.