Energy - Litigation & Investigations

Overview

The energy industry has become one of the more litigious industry sectors, so it is critical to have legal counsel who are skilled and successful litigators, but also deeply entrenched in the industry. We handle litigation and investigations for producers, processors, utilities, and distributors of all forms of energy—oil, natural gas, petroleum liquids, renewables, coal, and electricity, as well as service providers that support these activities.

Blank Rome’s litigation and investigations attorneys have extensive experience counseling our energy sector clients in disputes in federal and state courts and before regulatory agencies. Our team includes two retired federal judges, energy specialists, general litigators, and key attorneys from our complex dispute resolution, white collar defense and investigations, and insurance recovery practices. 

We have decades of experience representing clients in state and federal regulatory proceedings, including enforcement investigations by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”), the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”), as well as in regulation-related litigation and any investigation involving federal prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). We also work with clients to develop internal compliance programs to mitigate the risk of future investigation. 

How We Can Help

We handle single-party, multi-party, and class action cases involving: 

  • judicial and administrative challenges to grant or denial of federal and state regulatory permits and authorizations
  • royalties and rights
  • antitrust
  • criminal proceedings
  • deposition preparation and defense
  • contract disputes and other commercial litigation matters
  • management of incidents involving toxic torts or catastrophic events (e.g., pipeline explosions)
  • insurance coverage litigation for policyholders
  • compliance programs

What Sets Us Apart

  • Our team includes a former U.S. Secretary of Energy, a former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, a Chief Judge of the Environmental Hearing Board, and former officials of the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”).
  • Several of our energy attorneys are former high-level executives in major integrated oil, chemical, and natural resources companies and one served as a general counsel of a major public utility.
  • We have an attorney who served six terms as co-chair of the American Bar Association’s (“ABA”) Environmental and Energy Litigation Committee.
  • Our attorneys also provide their insights in monthly articles for The Legal Intelligencer and Forbes; and they are routinely asked to be featured speakers at industry events. They often serve as educators for Continuing Legal Education seminars and webinars.
  • We help our clients keep current on the latest trends in the industry through our regularly updated Energy and Environmental Trends Watch blog.

Experience

Litigation and Investigations

  • Represent Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. and Sunoco Pipeline L.P. in federal litigation involving Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act citizen suit claims related to an alleged petroleum release.
  • Defended a pipeline company in connection with a state and federal Clean Water Act enforcement action involving inadvertent returns associated with horizontal directional drilling.
  • Served as counsel to Shell in connection with the defense of its Clean Air Act permit issued for the Petrochemical Complex in Monaca, PA.
  • Served as counsel to BG LNG and Keyspan Corporation in the conversion of the KLNG facility in Providence, RI, from truck to marine loading, including all litigation ensuing from the denial of a permit by the FERC.
  • Served as counsel to five public utility companies in actions against the U.S. Government for the economic losses attributable to the breach of the Department of Energy’s obligation to commence removing spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants.
  • Served as counsel to Chevron and Ashland Oil in successfully defending mass tort cases alleging soil and groundwater contamination from oil production operations.
  • Served as counsel to an international oilfield services company in environmental and toxic tort litigation as well as groundwater contamination claims and other environmental issues arising in connection with hydraulic fracturing shale development.
  • Served as counsel to Monroe Energy LLC and provide environmental counsel in connection with EPA and State enforcement matters; also conducted an environmental compliance audit of the refinery’s terminal operations.
  • Served as counsel to a refinery in an internal investigation related to alleged criminal and civil violations of environmental laws.
  • Served as counsel to Exelon successful defending against a property damage class action relating to alleged leaks in a five-mile pipeline running from an Exelon nuclear power plant to the Kankakee River.
  • Represented a natural gas utility and its insurers in two separate litigations for damage to undersea electric transmission cables that occurred during construction of a natural gas pipeline in Long Island Sound.
  • Served as counsel to a pipeline company on the remediation of several pipeline spills in New Jersey. In addition to overseeing the remediation work, including suing a municipality that ruptured the line and recovering the remediation cost for that incident; suing a power company and recovering the remediation cost for a pipeline rupture caused by a down power line. We also defended tort claims for property damage arising out of the latter incident.
  • Represented a refinery and chemical companies in conducting internal investigations of alleged violations of state and federal environmental laws, and negotiations with EPA and state environmental agencies.
  • Represent Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. and Sunoco Pipeline L.P. before the Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas defending against state tort claims related to an alleged petroleum release.
  • Conduct an internal environmental health and safety compliance audit for a pipeline company with terminals and truck-loading operations.
  • Represent LyondellBasell Industries for more than 15 years in more than 150 cases in 17 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico involving alleged contamination of groundwater and drinking water from the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (“MTBE”). Our environmental practice handled two of the largest natural resource damages cases pending in the United States, obtained dismissals in 26 MTBE cases, and secured over $374 million in settlements and judgments from LyondellBasell’s co-defendants.
  • Serve as counsel to Schlumberger on litigation exposure and compliance related to environmental issues in connection with energy-related development.
  • Represented Hess Corporation in defense against a statewide environmental lawsuit filed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania against most of the major oil companies in receipt of monies to clean up petroleum releases from the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund (“USTIF”), a public fund administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance. Owners and operators of underground storage tanks must meet certain eligibility requirements to receive proceeds from the USTIF.
  • Represented Hovensa Petrol Refinery, a petroleum refinery on the island of St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands that operates as a joint venture between Hess Corporation and Petroleos de Venezuela, in connection with a series of environmental toxic tort cases pending in the United States, involving nearly 800 individual plaintiffs and several hundred properties.
  • Represented a developer in the construction of a natural gas plant to receive gas from a landfill in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.
  • Served as counsel in the defense of an E&P company against a multi-plaintiff litigation alleging environmental contamination, breach of contract, personal injury, negligence, strict liability, nuisance and medical monitoring. We obtained summary judgment decision finding that hydraulic fracturing is not subject to strict liability and also obtained summary judgment on claims of breach of contract, personal injury, negligence, nuisance, and medical monitoring.
  • Served as counsel in the defense of E&P company against negligence/ personal injury claims of subcontractor related to activities on well pad following drilling operations and obtained summary judgment decision finding that operator did not owe duty to truck driver hired by drilling subcontractor.
  • Served as counsel in the defense of E&P companies in state and federal courts against claims of environmental contamination, breach of contract, declaratory judgment, breach of duty of fair dealing, personal injury, negligence, negligence per se, strict liability, nuisance, slander of title, trespass, loss of consortium, medical monitoring, lease invalidity, ejectment, quiet title, and force majeure issues where we:
    • obtained dismissal of declaratory judgment (Court refused to read Pugh clause into lease), slander of title (statute of limitations had expired and recording of memo did not result in on-going tort), and breach of duty of fair dealing claims (not an independent cause of action);
    • obtained dismissal of entire case on basis that shut-in payments on vertical, non-fracked and non-producing wells perpetuated lease into secondary term (affirmed by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit);
    • obtained dismissal of case alleging breach of lease by failure to pay bonus;
    • obtained dismissal of case alleging breach of lease and reliance damages;
    • defended E&P company in class action case and in multi-plaintiff case where claim is breach of lease for failure to pay bonus payments where Drafts were issued but not funded and leases were surrendered;
    • defended against claims that a preexisting lease precluded enforcement of oil and gas lease with E&P company (plaintiff voluntarily withdrew case);
    • obtained dismissal of case on rejection of plaintiff’s theory that shut-in clause could not be used to maintain a lease in force beyond primary term if the lease was initially extended by continuous operations provision;
    • obtained dismissal of all contract claims as well as anticipatory trespass, negligence per se, and gross negligence claims in contamination and nuisance-type case related to development of Marcellus wells near plaintiff’s property; and
    • obtained summary judgment on private nuisance, negligence, and strict liability claim in same action.
  • Obtained jury verdict for an E&P company on claims of lease invalidity, fraud, misrepresentation, and negligence.
  • Served as counsel in the defense of an E&P company against Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection enforcement action in Commonwealth Court related to restoration and replacement of water supplies.
  • Served as counsel in the defense of an E&P company against claims of strict liability for injuries sustained on well site.
  • Represented an E&P company in injunction proceedings related to access for well pad remediation and pipeline construction.
  • Obtained injunction on behalf of an E&P company against environmental activist preventing interference with operations or the entering of well sites, well pads, or access roads and successfully defend appeal of same.
  • Served as counsel to enforce injunction and obtain contempt damages against environmental activist who continued to disobey injunction.
  • Obtained confession of judgment of nearly $3,000,000 for an E&P company and defeat motion to open judgment.
  • Served as counsel in the defense of an E&P company in class action suit seeking to invalidate leases due to suspension of corporate articles of original lessee at time leases obtained.
  • Served as counsel in the defense of an E&P company in arbitration against claims of environmental contamination, negligence, and nuisance.
  • Successfully appealed summary judgment against an E&P company on lease extension issue and represent company on remand to trial court where claims of lease invalidity and bad faith pooling were alleged.
  • Served as counsel in the defense of an E&P company against quiet title and declaratory judgment claim where plaintiffs seek to declare lease invalid due to a well allegedly being incapable of holding acreage.
  • Served as counsel in the defense of electric company in multi-plaintiff litigation in Washington County seeking to invalidate easements as a result of alleged non-use.
  • Defended international entity in federal court claim arising from alleged breach of coal purchase agreement.
  • Represented an E&P company related to discharge during drilling project.
  • Collection of $600,000 in accounts receivable from a Pennsylvania oilfield service company on behalf of a Calgary-based oilfield equipment rental company, including filing lawsuit in Western District of Pennsylvania.
  • Advised and represented E&P and service companies regarding various issues related to seismic testing, including:
    • alleged damage to township roads during seismic testing using vibrosis truck;
    • interactions with townships (ordinance reviews, demonstrations of equipment, road usage, etc.);
    • challenges to and suit regarding denial of permits; and
    • interactions with landowners relative to seismic access and damage claims.

Regulatory Agency Proceedings

  • Represent Range Resources–Appalachia LLC before the Environmental Hearing Board in connection with an appeal of Range’s general permit for the beneficial use of drill cuttings.
  • Represent Exelon Generation Company, LLC before the Environmental Hearing Board in an appeal of Exelon’s Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification for the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station.
  • Represent Sunoco Partners Marketing & Terminals L.P. and Sunoco Pipeline L.P. in various appeals before the Environmental Hearing Board pertaining to air permits related to the Mariner East Project.
  • Served as counsel to Sunoco Pipeline L.P. in various vigorously-contested proceedings before the Public Utility Commission in connection with Sunoco Pipeline’s Mariner East Project
  • Served as counsel to a pipeline company in enforcement actions involving PADEP and EPA relating to inadvertent returns associated with horizontal directional drilling which was conducted for a gathering line.
  • Served as counsel to the owner of a midstream gas gathering pipeline regarding New York energy regulatory matters.
  • Represented Philadelphia Energy Solutions, which owns the largest oil refining complex on the East Coast, on a range of regulatory and compliance issues, including Environmental Protection Agency enforcement.
  • Represented Monroe Energy LLC’s Trainer refinery in Delaware County, Pennsylvania in connection with regulatory advice and a number of enforcement actions.
  • Served as defense counsel for E&P companies in the investigation of allegations by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection of environmental misconduct brought by employee of company.
  • Served as counsel for E&P companies in the negotiation and compliance with consent orders between company and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
  • Served as defense counsel for E&P companies in the investigation of alleged violations by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
  • Served as defense counsel for E&P companies in an action by landowner against the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection alleging DEP’s conclusion that operator did not contaminate landowner’s water supply was erroneous, including:
    • Quashed subpoena by landowner to E&P company’s expert for records related to work done at the sight;
    • Defeated motion for reconsideration of order quashing subpoena;
    • Defeated a motion by landowner for reconsideration and for sanctions;
    • Defeated preliminary objections filed by landowner to preliminary objections filed E&P company; and
    • Obtained dismissal of various claims asserted by landowner and the striking of various allegations in the petition.
  • Served as defense counsel for E&P companies in appeals by third parties of a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Consent Order and Settlement Agreement related to the replacement and restoration of water supplies.
  • Served as defense counsel for E&P companies in an appeal by multiple landowners related to permits granted by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
  • Served as defense counsel for E&P companies in an enforcement for alleged Clean Streams Act violation for storm water discharges and obtain permit for same.
  • Served as defense counsel for E&P companies against the enforcement of presumptive liability for well water quality changes attributed to natural gas operations.
  • Served as counsel for E&P companies in response to United States Environmental Protection Agency requests for information under CERCLA and the Clean Water Act.
  • Served as defense counsel for E&P companies in the investigation by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency related to releases at impoundment site, and
  • Served as defense counsel for E&P companies in connection with a threatened enforcement action against an E&P company relating to release of produced water from hydraulic fracturing operations via a common-carrier water pipeline to an injection well.

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