Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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L.B. 1161, which was passed in 2012, allows major oil pipeline carriers to bypass the regulatory procedures of the Public Service Commission, instead allowing them to obtain approval from the Governor to exercise the power of eminent domain for building a pipeline in Nebraska. Appellees, a group of landowners, filed a complaint alleging that the bill violated the state Constitution’s equal protection, due process, and separation of powers provisions, as well as the Constitution’s prohibition of special legislation. The district court determined that L.B. 1161 was unconstitutional. Four members of the Supreme Court - a majority of its seven members - held that Appellees had standing to challenge the constitutionality of the bill and that the legislation was unconstitutional. However, because five judges of the Court did not vote on the constitutionality of the bill, the Court held that L.B. must stand by default. View "Thompson v. Heineman" on Justia Law

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3RP Operating, Inc. filed a claim with a receiver for payment of operating expenses of an oil well. The receiver managed the oil well at issue and was appointed by the district court in an underlying case in which siblings disputed the assets of their parents' estate. The receiver denied 3RP's claim. 3RP intervened in the district court case, seeking payment based on contract and quantum meruit. The district court approved the receiver's denial of the claim for payment of services. The court of appeals affirmed, agreeing with the district court that because 3RP had no corporate existence during the time period for which it sought payment, its claim was correctly denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that 3RP was not entitled to be paid for the operating expenses it sought because it did not legally exist during the time for which it sought payment. View "Sutton v. Killham" on Justia Law

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The City of Minden filed an application to construct a subtransmission line with the Nebraska Power Review Board (Board). Southern Public Power District (Southern) objected to the application. The Board denied the application, finding that Minden's proposal was not the most economical and feasible means of supplying electrical services and also that its proposal would unnecessarily duplicate Southern's existing line. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was evidence to support the Board's decision that Southern could more economically and feasibly transmit Minden's necessary power; and (2) the record showed sufficient evidence to support the Board's decision that Minden's line would be unnecessarily duplicative of Southern's line, and that decision was not arbitrary or unreasonable. View "In re Application of Minden" on Justia Law

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A public power and irrigation district (District) filed an action against a development and other sublessees (collectively, Development) to quiet title to land owned by District and leased by Development. Development filed motions to dismiss the complaint, arguing that District's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be grante. The district court sustained the motions and overruled Development's motion for attorney fees. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in granting Development's motions to dismiss because (1) the allegations in District's complaint, taken as true, were plausible and thus were sufficient to suggest that District had presented a justiciable controversy, and (2) the motions to dismiss filed in this case provided no notice that Development was asserting the affirmative defenses of judicial estoppel, collateral estoppel and res judicata. Remanded. View "Central Neb. Pub. Power v. Jeffrey Lake Dev." on Justia Law

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Appellees, record owners of surface property, brought an equitable action pursuant to Nebraska's dormant mineral statutes, claiming the property's severed mineral interests had been abandoned pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 57-229 and seeking an order vesting title to all several mineral rights in them. The district court entered an order finding Appellants, the owners of the severed mineral rights, had abandoned the mineral interests under section 57-229 because for more than twenty-three years preceding the filing of the complaint, Appellants had not publicly exercised rights of ownership. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Nebraska's dormant mineral statutes were not applied retroactively to Appellants and the district court did not err in determining that those interests had been abandoned under the provisions of section 57-229. View "Peterson v. Sanders" on Justia Law

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John and Betty Vlasin leased the oil and gas rights to their land to Ranch Oil Company. Ranch Oil operated on one-half of the land in the lease and Byron Hummon operated on the other half. After the primary term of the lease expired and the wells stopped producing oil, the Vlasins entered into a new lease agreement with Hummon which encompassed the entirety of their land. Thereafter, Ranch Oil took action to revive one of its dormant wells, relying on a savings provision of the lease, which stated that the lease shall not terminate if the lessee commences operations for drilling a well within sixty days from such cessation. Plaintiffs, the Vlasins and Hummon, brought suit against Ranch Oil for declaratory judgment, trespass, and conversion. The court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs but awarded only nominal damages. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in concluding (1) Ranch Oil's activities on the Vlasins land did not operate so as to extend Ranch Oil's interest in the lease, and (2) Plaintiffs failed to prove they were entitled to damages under trespass and conversion claims, and the Vlasins were entitled only to nominal damages. View "Bedore v. Ranch Oil Co." on Justia Law