Mineral Law

Insight and Information on the Oil, Gas, Pipeline, & Mining Industries

Alaska is different—it has moose hunters on hovercrafts, many large national parks, and certain unique federal laws. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that National Park Service laws and regulations of general applicability do not apply to inholdings within Alaska’s national parks. Sturgeon v. Frost, 587 U.S. ___ (2019). While on a moose hunting trip twelve years ago, John Sturgeon was repairing his hovercraft on a section of the Nation River within…
The 2018 deadline to record affidavits of labor and pay rental on State of Alaska mining claims was disrupted by a 7.0 earthquake near Anchorage at 8:29 a.m. on Friday, November 30. As a result of the earthquake, the Department of Natural Resources’ Anchorage office and the State of Alaska Recorder’s Office closed, preventing the payment of rent and the recording of affidavits on the apparent last day to do so. However, under existing DNR…
Alaska’s rebatable production tax credit program was created by state legislators to be an incentive for explorers and small producers to invest in oil and gas exploration and production in the state but was hurt by its own success when oil prices dropped. The legislature repealed the program but a queue of valid outstanding credits still awaits payment. My latest article for State Tax Notes: Provides an overview of the rebatable production tax credits, which…
Alaska’s oil and gas production tax has been subject to continuing debate and change as lawmakers and policymakers struggle with balancing budgets in times of volatile oil prices while also encouraging the investment necessary to monetize the state’s resources to run its government, create jobs, build and maintain infrastructure, and promote economic activity. In my second article as a columnist for State Tax Notes, I provide: A review of the oil and gas production tax and…
On October 4, 2017, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California held that the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) cannot postpone implementation of natural gas methane emission rules because such action would violate the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).  Plaintiffs – the State of California, the State of New Mexico, and a coalition of seventeen conservation and tribal citizens groups (jointly “Plaintiffs”) – initiated the lawsuit in two separate actions.  Plaintiffs argued…
Secretary of the Interior Zinke has directed that the Bureau of Land Management immediately begin implementing the recommendations in his Sage-Grouse Review Team’s report, which was was released today, concerning the 2015 greater sage-grouse amendments to federal land use management plans. (Prior post on Sage-Grouse Review Team here.) Among other things, such as coordinating federal mitigation policy with state mitigation approaches, the Trump Administration will now be moving to “[r]emove all [sagebrush focal…
On July 18, in Hopkins County Coal, LLC v. Perez, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued an opinion upholding two citations and an order issued to a mine operator, Hopkins County Coal, for its refusal to turn over certain personnel records requested by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) during a § 105(c) discrimination complaint investigation. The mine operator challenged the request for the records on several grounds, arguing that…
On July 19, 2017, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that grants the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) increased autonomy over pipeline approvals.  The bill, Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act (H.R. 2910), is aimed at streamlining the federal permitting process for pipeline approvals. H.R. 2901 would specify timeframes and procedures for FERC and other affected agencies to follow in conducting environmental reviews related to natural gas pipelines. …
On Wednesday the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will auction helium stored in its Cliffside Field underground storage facility in west Texas (aka the Federal Helium Reserve).  This annual auction under the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013 is part of a privatization effort that began back in 1996 and will culminate with the BLM divesting itself of that facility by 2021.  At the same time, concerns about helium supply are again rising, as production from Qatar,…
On June 28, 2017, the Senate introduced a bill that aims to revitalize and overhaul various federal energy and natural resources policies.  Senate Bill 1460 (S.1460), sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Arkansas) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), broadly proposes reform of United States policies on topics such as energy efficiency, supply and conservation.  A key highlight of S.1460 is modernization of the electric grid, an issue that has often been touted as a national security concern. …