By R. Lee Vail

Deepwater oil and gas production from the Gulf of Mexico has become a significant portion of the current production within the United States, equal to over 1.6 million barrels per day of oil equivalent; total U.S oil production is around 5.3 million barrels per day. (1)  Worldwide shallow water oil production peaked around the year 2000 whereas worldwide deep water production has risen to around 5 million barrels per day. On May 10, 2011, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (“BOEMRE”) approved Royal Dutch Shell’s Exploration Plan S-0744 to better define discoveries announced in 2009 and 2010. (2) 

Several environmental groups filed suit in an attempt to block the approved plan. Gulf Restoration Network, Inc., Florida Wildlife Federation, and Sierra Club Inc. filed a petition on June 8, 2011, in the United States Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit, in an attempt to set aside BOEMRE’s approval of the plan. The allegations in the petition are relatively general, alleging violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) (i.e., for BOEMRE’s alleged failure to appropriately conduct the required environmental assessments and/or impact statements) and further alleging elements required pursuant to 43 U.S.C §1349(c) necessary to maintain the suit under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”).
 


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By R. Lee Vail

On June 1, 2011, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) issued a notice to Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf Region (GOMR) lease and pipeline right-of-way (ROW) holders on reporting hurricane and tropical storm effects. Specifically, the recent notice, designated NTL No. 2011-G01(1), requires four

By Lou Grossman

In a recent decision, the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the application of the longstanding subsequent purchaser doctrine to an oilfield legacy case.  The decision Wagoner v. Chevron U.S.A. Inc., et. al., No. 10-45507 (La. 2. Cir. 2010) affirmed the legal principle that the right to recover for property damages

By Tokesha M. Collins

During the 2010 Session, the Louisiana Legislature enacted Act 986 to amend La. R.S. 30:2022, the state law concerning the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s (LDEQ) permit process. The legislation began as House Bill 1169 and was authored by Representative Karen St. Germain. Governor Bobby Jindal signed the legislation on July 7, 2010, as Act 986. The Act became effective that same day.

The Act enacted La. R.S. 30:2022(D), which requires greater transparency from LDEQ regarding changes made to permits, renewals, extensions, and modifications. First, Act 986 requires that, if requested by a permit applicant, LDEQ provide the applicant with a written summary of the specific changes to the existing permit whenever LDEQ prepares a draft database permit for the renewal, extension, or substantial permit modification of an existing hazardous waste permit, solid waste permit, Louisiana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (LPDES) permit, or air quality permit. The database is LDEQ’s Tools for Environmental Management and Protection Organization (TEMPO) database system. Previously, LDEQ was under no obligation to inform a permit applicant of each and every change that had been made in the renewal, extension, or substantial modification of an existing permit.
 


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By Esteban Herrera, Jr.

The July 20, 2010 Louisiana Register contained a notice from the Office of Conservation, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources that purported to promulgate rules amending Statewide Order 29-B to add a new Chapter 8 on procedures for evaluation and remediation of groundwater at E&P sites. Conservation’s Web site on July 20

By Maureen N. Harbourt

On June 2, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency adopted a final rule which significantly lowers the primary National Ambient Air Quality Standard (“NAAQS”) for sulfur dioxide (“SO2 ”). EPA is phasing out both the annual standard (0.03 parts per million or ppm) and the existing 24-hour standard set at 0.14 ppm, and phasing in a new 1-hour standard set at 75 parts per billion (“ppb”). The new 1-hour standard is met when the 3-year average of the 99th percentile of daily maximum 1-hour averages at each monitor does not exceed 75 ppb. EPA will transition to the new standard with overlap of the existing standards. In areas that are in compliance with the current standards (all of Louisiana), the existing 24-hour and annual standards will be revoked one year after the designations of new nonattainment areas. Designations are to be final in June 2012, so the existing standards will no longer remain effective as of June 2013.


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By Victor J. Suane, Jr.

In 2006, the Louisiana Legislature enacted Louisiana Revised Statute 30:29 (“Act 312”) to provide a procedure for judicial resolution of claims for environmental damage to property. The provisions of Act 312 are applicable whenever there is “any litigation or pleading making a judicial demand arising from or alleging environmental damage” involving “contamination resulting from activities associated with oilfield sites or exploration and production (“E&P”) sites,” regardless of whether claims for remediation arise under the Louisiana Mineral Code or Civil Code. La. R.S. 30:29(I)(1).


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By Linda S. Akchin

On Friday, April 9, 2010, the Louisiana Supreme Court (1) reversed the Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in Cimarex Energy Co. v. Mauboules (2)in which the Circuit Court held that

(1) a royalty interest vendors’ oral assertion to a mineral lessee that the royalty interest vendee fraudulently inserted a prescription interruption provision in the royalty deed, and that therefore the royalty interest had reverted back to the vendors, is not a reasonable basis for the mineral lessee to initiate a concursus proceeding to determine the ownership of royalty payments because the innocent third party purchaser of the royalty interests is protected by the public records doctrine; and

(2) the mineral lessee is liable not only for the royalties paid into the registry of the court, but also for an additional sum equal to double the amount of royalties paid into the registry of the court, as damages.

The Third Circuit decision represented a gross departure from well-established Louisiana law relating to concursus proceedings, upon which the oil and gas industry, and mineral royalty payors in particular, have long relied in order to avoid the risk of multiple liability and the vexation of multiple lawsuits, as well as to avoid a penalty for nonpayment of royalties pursuant to Mineral Code provisions allowing a penalty under certain circumstances.


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By Maureen Harbourt

On January 27, 2010, the SEC voted 3-2 to issue an interpretive guidance “on existing SEC disclosure requirements as they apply to business or legal developments relating to the issue of climate change.” Chair Mary Shapiro emphasized that the interpretive release is not intended to create new legal requirements, but is to clarify the requirements already applicable for reporting material risks on public disclosure statements. She was careful to avoid arguments on the science, stating: “We are not opining on whether the world’s climate is changing, at what pace it might be changing, or due to what causes. Nothing that the Commission does today should be construed as weighing in on those topics."


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By Len Kilgore and Esteban Herrera

In the January 20, 2010 Louisiana Register, the Office of Conservation, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources issued a Notice of Intent to amend Statewide Order 29-B to incorporate new rules for the evaluation and remediation of groundwater conditions at exploration and production sites.

The proposed rules can be found