Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law
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EMS appealed the district court's order denying its motion to remand its suit against the City to the state court from which it was removed. The court concluded that removal was improper because none of the claims in EMS's state court civil action satisfied either the federal question or diversity requirements of original jurisdiction; the district court's prior jurisdiction over the claims asserted in City v. CLECO, which were now dismissed, did not vest the district court with jurisdiction over EMS's claims; regardless of how factually intertwined with EMS's suit, the district court's retention of jurisdiction over the post-settlement matters could not substitute for original jurisdiction for the purpose of supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1367 or removal under section 1441, given that EMS's claims were not asserted in the same proceeding as the claims in City v. CLECO; and, if Baccus v. Parrish retained any precedential value, it was distinguishable and inapposite in this instance. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded.View "Energy Mgmt. Servs. v. City of Alexandria" on Justia Law

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Following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, each of the Oil Companies entered into contracts with the government to provide high-octane aviation gas (avgas) to fuel military aircraft. The production of avgas resulted in waste products such as spent alkylation acid and “acid sludge.” The Oil Companies contracted to have McColl, a former Shell engineer, dump the waste at property in Fullerton, California. More than 50 years later, California and the federal government obtained compensation from the Oil Companies under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601, for the cost of cleaning up the McColl site. The Oil Companies sued, arguing the avgas contracts require the government to indemnify them for the CERCLA costs. The Court of Federal Claims granted summary judgment in favor of the government. The Federal Circuit reversed with respect to breach of contract liability and remanded. As a concession to the Oil Companies, the avgas contracts required the government to reimburse the Oil Companies for their “charges.” The court particularly noted the immense regulatory power the government had over natural resources during the war and the low profit margin on the avgas contracts. View "Shell Oil Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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In connection with construction of a pipeline to ship natural gas from Wyoming to Eastern Ohio, Rockies Express and Minerals Management Service (MMS), within the Department of the Interior, entered into contracts containing Royalty-in-Kind (RIK) provisions. Under the RIK program, the government receives its royalty for mineral resources extracted under federal leases “in kind,” i.e., in natural gas, rather than in cash, 30 U.S.C. 192; 42 U.S.C. 15902(b). In exchange, the government makes monthly payments to ensure that a certain quantity of the mineral resources is made available for its purposes. The government then enters into processing and transportation contracts to sell the mineral royalties, often at a substantial profit over royalties received in cash. The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals determined that MMS had materially breached the contract, but that Rockies Express was only entitled to damages that had accrued before the Secretary of the Interior announced a decision to phase-out RIK contracts. The Federal Circuit affirmed that MMS materially breached the contract, but reversed the decision to limit damages. Rockies Express is entitled to compensatory damages to put it in as good a position as that in which it would have been put by full performance of the contract.View "Rockies Express Pipeline, LLC v. Salazar" on Justia Law

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The companies obtained an oil and gas lease from the government for a 5760-acre tract on the Outer Continental Shelf. They made an initial bonus payment of $23,236,314 and have paid additional rental payments of $54,720 per year. The lease became effective on August 1, 2008, and had an initial term running through July 31, 2016. It provided that it issued pursuant to and was subject to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of August 7, 1953, (OCSLA) 43 U.S.C. 1331 and “all regulations issued pursuant to the statute in the future which provide for the prevention of waste and conservation of the natural resources of the Outer Continental Shelf and the protection of correlative rights therein; and all other applicable statutes and regulations.” In 2010, an explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers and caused an oil spill that lasted several months. As a result, the government imposed new regulatory requirements, Oil Pollution Act (OPA), 33 U.S.C. 2701. The companies sued for breach of contract. The Claims Court and Federal Circuit ruled in favor of the government, finding that the government made the changes pursuant to OCSLA, not OPA. View "Century Exploration New Orleans, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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Entergy, owner and operator of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station, filed suit against Vermont, raising claims challenging Vermont statutes governing Vermont Yankee (Acts 74, 160, and 189) and other claims related to Vermont's attempt to condition its grant of permission to operate Vermont Yankee on the execution of a power purchase agreement that favored Vermont retail consumers. The court affirmed the district court's grant of declaratory judgment that Act 74 and Act 160 were facially preempted by the Atomic Energy Act, 42 U.S.C. 2011-2281; reversed the district court's determination that Vermont's efforts to condition a new Certificate of Public Good for Vermont Yankee on the execution of a favorable power purchase agreement violated the dormant Commerce Clause; affirmed the district court's determination that Entergy's challenge under the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. 791-828c, was unripe; affirmed the district court's grant of a permanent injunction enjoining defendants from enforcing sections 6522(c)(2) or 6522(c)(4) in title 10 of the Vermont Statutes, as enacted by Act 74, or sections 248(e)(2), 248(m), or 254 in title 30 of the Vermont Statutes, as enacted by Act 160; and vacated the district court's permanent injunction enjoining defendants from conditioning the issuance of a Certificate of Public Good on the execution of a below-wholesale-market power purchase agreement between Entergy and Vermont utilities or otherwise requiring Vermont Yankee to sell power to Vermont utilities at preferential rates.View "Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee v. Shumlin" on Justia Law

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In 2002 oil companies filed breach of contract actions against the government, concerning sales of offshore oil and glass leases in the 1980s. The Claims Court held that the government had breached its contracts by preventing the companies from drilling for oil in the offshore areas covered by the leases. The Federal Circuit affirmed the judgment and restitution awards of approximately $1 billion. Nycal, which held a 4.25 percent interest in two of the leases, waived its right to restitution and pursued a claim for lost profits. The Claims Court held that it was permissible for Nycal to seek lost-profits damages even though the other owners of the leases in which Nycal held a partial share had accepted restitution, but concluded that Nycal had not proved its case for lost profits. The Federal Circuit affirmed, noting the government’s evidence that Nycal could not have made a profit on its share of the leases.View "NYCAL Offshore Dev. Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Authority was formed under Ga. Code 46-4-82(a) to provide member municipalities with natural gas. It operates as a non-profit, distributing profits and losses to member municipalities: 64 in Georgia, two in Tennessee, 12 in other states. It pays its own operating expenses and judgments; it is exempt from state laws on financing and investment for state entities and has discretion over accumulation, investment, and management of its funds. It sets its governance rules; members elect leaders from among member municipalities. Smyrna, Tennessee has obtained gas from the Authority since 2000, using a pipeline that does not run through Georgia. The Authority entered a multi-year “hedge” contract for gas acquisition, setting price and volume through 2014, and passed the costs on. The market price of natural gas then fell due to increased hydraulic fracturing (fracking), but Smyrna was still paying the higher price. Smyrna sued for breach of contract, violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, breach of fiduciary duty, and unjust enrichment. The district court denied the Authority’s motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity under Georgia law and the Eleventh Amendment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that the Authority’s claim that any entity referred to as a state “instrumentality” in a Georgia statute is entitled to state-law sovereign immunity “requires quite a stretch of the imagination.” View "Town of Smyrna, TN v. Mun. Gas Auth. of GA" on Justia Law

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The 1987 Public Utilities Act, 220 ILCS 5/8-403.1, was intended to encourage development of power plants that convert solid waste to electricity. Local electric utilities were required to enter into 10-year agreements to purchase power from such plants designated as “qualified” by the Illinois Commerce Commission, at a rate exceeding that established by federal law. The state compensated electric utilities with a tax credit. A qualified facility was obliged to reimburse the state for tax credits its customers had claimed after it had repaid all of its capital costs for development and implementation. Many qualified facilities failed before they repaid their capital costs, so that Illinois never got its tax credit money back. The Act was amended in 2006, to establish a moratorium on new Qualified Facilities, provide additional grounds for disqualifying facilities from the subsidy, and expand the conditions that trigger a facility’s liability to repay electric utilities’ tax credits. The district court held that the amendment cannot be applied retroactively. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The amendment does not clearly indicate that the new repayment conditions apply to monies received prior to the amendment and must be construed prospectively. View "Illinois v. Chiplease, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1983, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act established a plan for spent nuclear fuel (SNF) generated by nuclear power plants, 42 U.S.C. 10101–10270. The Act made utilities responsible for SNF storage until the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) accepts the material. The Secretary of Energy entered into contracts with nuclear utilities to accept SNF in return for payment of fees. The Act provided that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission “shall not issue or renew a license” to any nuclear utility unless the utility has entered into a contract with DOE or DOE certifies ongoing negotiations. Nuclear utilities, including the owner of the Entergy nuclear power stations, entered into contracts and began making payments, which have continued. By 1994, DOE knew it would be unable to accept SNF by the Act’s January 31, 1998 deadline. In 1995, DOE issued a “Final Interpretation” that took the position that it did not have an unconditional obligation to begin performance on that date. Entergy sued, asserting that DOE’s partial breach caused it to incur additional costs for SNF storage. The claims court struck an unavoidable delay defense, based on a prior decision rejecting DOE’s argument that its failure was “unavoidable” under the contract. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Entergy Nuclear Fitzpatrick, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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Kansas power companies suffered damages due to the government’s partial breach of the Standard Contract for Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel And/Or High-Level Radioactive Waste, authorized by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, 42 U.S.C. 10101–10270. The Court of Federal Claims conducted a nine-day trial and awarded $10,632,454.83. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part. In determining the amount of damages, thel court correctly did not award damages for cost of capital and for the costs associated with researching alternative storage options for spent nuclear fuel and high level radioactive waste. The court also appropriately reduced the companies’ damages by the value of the benefit they received as a result of their mitigation activities. However, the court erred by not accepting the companies’ reasonable method for calculating overhead costs. View "KS Gas & Elec. Co. v. United States" on Justia Law