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TLMA Files Letter of Support in BMT O&G v. Clayton Williams Energy - November 2016


TLMA filed an amicus curiae letter in support of royalty owners in a dispute with Clayton Williams Energy and Chesapeake. BMT, et al, leased minerals to Chesapeake Exploration, and in the lease specifically stated that no operator other than the lessee, Chesapeake, could conduct operations on the leased premises. Very shortly before the lease was set to expire, Chesapeake farmed out the operations to Clayton Williams Energy, without notifying the royalty owners or getting consent from the royalty owners, to drill the first well on the lease. It was only when the royalty owners asked Chesapeake for an executed release of the lease that they were informed that Clayton Williams Energy was drilling a well on the leased land in violation of the lease terms. The trial court found in favor of BMT, et al, terminated the lease, and awarded damages to the royalty owners for Chesapeake's and Clayton Williams Energy's breach of the lease. The 8th Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, seemingly failing to find a distinction between "Lessee" and "Operator" in the lease terms.
The Texas Supreme Court declined to hear the royalty owners' appeal. In November, BMT, et al, filed a motion for rehearing, and TLMA filed its letter in support of the royalty owners. Citing the importance of understanding TLMA believes that the Court of Appeals’ opinion evidences a basic lack of understanding of the nature and role of the operator of an oil and gas lease, and the importance of respecting the meaning and intent of negotiated contract terms. You can find a link to all of the filings in this care here, and read TLMA's letter here.

TLMA and TSCRA File Amicus Brief in Exxon v. Lazy R Ranch - November 2016

TLMA, together with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, filed an amicus curiae brief in a Texas Supreme Court case that may have strong repercussions for landowners and their ability to seek relief from ongoing damage by oil and gas operations. Exxon caused groundwater contamination on the Lazy R Ranch that the landowners did not discover for some time. When Exxon refused to clean up the site, the Lazy R filed for an injunction asking for Exxon to take immediate measures to prevent further groundwater contamination. Exxon claims the lawsuit is barred by the statute of limitations because the surface contamination occurred more than two years ago. However, the statute of limitations applies only when seeking legal damages; Lazy R is not seeking money but an injunction to halt an ongoing nuisance. You can read the full brief here.

TLMA Files Comments in Railroad Commission Proposed Rulemaking - September 2016
On September 26, TLMA filed formal comments on a proposed rulemaking by the Railraod Commission to amend Statewide Rule 3.15. TLMA's comments recommended against the relaxation of the regulations, which also have potential to affect the terms of certain leases. We also took the opportunity to highlight a related, existing problem - the inability to audit production reports to ensure oil or gas production attributed to a well in fact came from that well. You can read the full comments and all of the other comments filed on the rulemaking by visiting the Railroad Commission website here.

TLMA Testifies at Sunset Advisory Commission Hearing on the Railroad Commission - August 2016

On August 22, TLMA attended the public hearing of the Sunset Advisory Commission to testify on the sunset review of the Railroad Commission.The proposed changes to the rules would reduce the volume of oil or gas that must be produced from a well in order for the well to be deemed "active" under Commission rules. TLMA commented against the relaxing of the rules, but also took the opportunity to highlight the existing problem of a lack of auditing of production reports to ensure that production attributed to a particular well did indeed come from that well. You can read the complete comments here.


TLMA Invited to Testify at Texas Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs - July 2016.
 
On July 25, the Senate Committeeon Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs held a hearing on issues related to groundwater in Texas. The TLMA was invited to testify on the application of oil and gas law to groundwater. You can watch the video of the hearing by clicking here. The hearing lasted 4 hours and 48 minutes, and included extensive testimony regarding the regulation of groundwater. To watch the final panel of witnesses, including TLMA Executive Director Laura Buchanan, skip to the 4:13:00 mark in the video.

The Supreme Court of Texas Issues Decision in Coyote Lake Ranch v. Lubbock -May 2016.
The Supreme Court of Texas handed down its decision in a much-watched case regarding groundwater in Texas. In a landmark holding, the Court held that, like the mineral estate, the groundwater estate in Texas is the dominant estate. This means simply that the owner of the groundwater has an implied right to use the surface to produce its water. As such, the Court also held that the Accommodation Doctrine applies to groundwater like it does to oil and gas. You can read the Court's full opinion here.
TLMA Files Comments on the Sunset Advisory Commission's review of the Railroad Commission - May 2016

TLMA filed public comments on the Sunset Advisory Commission staff's report on its review of the Railroad Commission of Texas. You can read our letter by clicking here. To see all of the public comments filed for the report, click here.

Sunset Advisory Commission Releases Report on Railroad Commission - April 2016
 
On April 29, the Sunset Advisory Commission released its staff report reviewing the Texas Railroad Commission for the 85th state legislative session in 2017. You can find links to the full staff report and an executive summary, as well as the RRC's self-evaluation report filed last September by clicking here.
 
TLMA Files Amicus Brief in Denbury Green Pipeline v. Texas Rice Land Partners - February 2016 

TLMA filed an amicus brief in support of the landowners in a dispute over Denbury's use of eminent-domain authority to construct a CO2 pipeline from Louisiana to its oil fields in East Texas. This is the second time this case has made it to the Texas Supreme Court. In 2012, the Court articulated a test for determining whether or not a pipeline operator qualifies as a common carrier, allowing it to exercise eminent domain to take easements. Last year, the Beaumont Court of Appeals correctly applied that test. Denbury filed a petition for review of the decision with the highest state court.

Click here to read the brief as filed. 


Supreme Court Denies Motion for Rehearing in Chesapeake v. Hyder - January 2016

The Texas Supreme Court denied Chesapeake's motion for rehearing, affirming its original decision that the royalty owners in the case had successfully negotiated lease-terms that prohibited post-production cost deductions, and that Chesapeake had been wrongfully withholding post-production costs from the Hyders' overriding royalties. Splitting down the same lines as the original decision, the Court voted 5-4 against rehearing. It also issued new opinions that have been substituted for the majority and dissenting opinions issued last June. 

Click here to read the majority's opinion, and click here to read the dissent.

TLMA and NARO-TX File Amicus Brief in Chesapeake v. Hyder - November 2015
 
TLMA and NARO-TX have again filed an amicus brief in Chesapeake v. Hyder, this time asking the Court to deny Chesapeake's motion for rehearing. We feel the Court got this decision right the first time, and there is no need to revisit this case.


Click here to read the brief as filed.



Chesapeake files Motion for Rehearing in Chesapeake v. Hyder - August 2015
 
Following the Texas Supreme Court's decision in favor of the landowners in Chesapeake v. Hyder, Chesapeake has filed a motion for rehearing. So far, amicus brief in support of Chesapeake's motion have been filed by The Texas Oil and Gas Association, a collective of oil and gas companies—BP America Production Co., Devon Energy Production Co., L.P., EOG Resources, Inc., EXCO Resources, Inc., Shell Western E&P, Inc., Trinity River Energy, LLC, Unit Corp., and XTO Energy Inc.— and SandRidge Exploration & Production, LLC.


Chairman Darby Asks for Input During Interim - July 2015
 
Texas House Committee on Energy Resources Chairman Drew Darby wrote to members of the Texas House. Chairman Darby reported on the committee's activity this past legislative session and asked for members' input on issues that should be addressed by the committee during the interim.
Click here to read the letter.


Supreme Court Issues Opinion in Chesapeake v. Hyder - June 2015
 
The Texas Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the Chesapeake v. Hyder case. In a 5-4 decision, the Court found in favor of the Hyders, and rejected Chesapeake's argument that, under the Heritage Resources v. NationsBank case, it was entitled to deduct postproduction costs from the overriding royalty interest regardless of provisions in the lease that disallowed cost deductions. Chief Justice Hecht delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justice Green, Justice Johnson, Justice Boyd, and Justice Devine joined. Justice Brown filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Willett, Justice Guzman and Justice Lehrmann joined.

Click here to read the majority's opinion, and click here to read the dissent.


Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Chesapeake v. Hyder - March 2015
 
In March, the Texas Supreme Court heard arguments in a case for which TLMA and NARO-Texas jointly filed an amicus brief authored by former Justice Raul Gonzalez and attorney John McFarland. The Hyders challenged Chesapeake's deduction of post-production costs from the overriding royalty interest because the Hyders had carefully negotiated to disallow such deduction in the terms of their lease. The district court and the 4th Court of Appeals both found in favor of the Hyders. Chesapeake appealed the rulings to the state's highest court.

Click here to read a Star-Telegram article about the case.


Supreme Court Issues Opinion in Hooks v. Samson - January 2015
 
A recent court case marks a victory for mineral owners who are the victims of fraud on the part of their mineral lessee. The Supreme Court of Texas has issued an opinion in Hooks v. Samson, a case for which TLMA filed an amicus brief.  Importantly, the Court revived Mr. Hooks' fraud claim, overturning the 1st Court of Appeals' ruling that it was barred by the statute of limitations.  The case has been remanded back to the court of appeals to consider the factual and legal sufficiency of the evidence on which the trial court's verdict in Mr. Hooks' favor was based. 

Click here to see the full court opinion.