Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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The issue in this case centered on the interpretation of the "right to travel" provision Article III of the Yakama Nation Treaty of 1855, in the context of importing fuel into Washington State. The Washington State Department of Licensing (Department) challenged Cougar Den Inc.'s importation of fuel without holding an importer's license and without paying state fuel taxes under former chapter 82.36 RCW, repealed by LAWS OF 2013, ch. 225, section 501, and former chapter 82.38 RCW (2007). An administrative law judge ruled in favor of Cougar Den, holding that the right to travel on highways should be interpreted to preempt the tax. The Department's director, Pat Kohler, reversed. On appeal, the Yakima County Superior Court reversed the director's order and ruled in favor of Cougar Den. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "Cougar Den, Inc. v. Dep't of Licensing" on Justia Law

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Two companies applied for permits to expand their oil terminals on Grays Harbor. The issue here this case presented was whether the Ocean Resources Management Act (ORMA), applied to these expansion projects. The Shoreline Hearings Board (Board) and the Court of Appeals held that ORMA did not apply to these projects based on limited definitions in the Department of Ecology's (DOE) ORMA implementation regulations. The parties also contested whether these projects qualify as "ocean uses" or "transportation" under DOE's regulations. The Washington Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals’ interpretation improperly restricted ORMA, which was enacted to broadly protect against the environmental dangers of oil and other fossil fuels. The Supreme Court also held that these projects qualified as both ocean uses and transportation. And though not discussed by the parties or the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court found these projects qualified as "coastal uses" under DOE's regulations. Accordingly, it reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded for further review under ORMA's provisions. View "Quinault Indian Nation v. City of Hoquiam" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the siting of a wind powered energy facility under the energy facilities site locations act (EFSLA). The State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), after reducing the scope of the project applied for, recommended that the governor approve the project, which she did. Opponents of the project then sought judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The superior court certified the issue directly to the Supreme Court. Upon review, the Court found no basis to reverse the EFSEC's recommendation or the governor's approval of the project. View "Friends of Columbia Gorge, Inc. v. State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council" on Justia Law

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Appellant Catherine Lakey and twelve other homeowners owned property that bordered a parcel owned by Puget Sound Energy, Inc. (PSE) on which there was an electrical substation. The homeowners sued PSE and the City of Kirkland after PSE constructed a new substation on PSE property. The homeowners sought review of the trial court's decision to exclude testimony of their expert under the "Frye" rule, and the court's ultimate decision to grant summary judgment on behalf of PSE. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court improperly excluded the expert's testimony under the "Frye" rule but properly excluded it under the Rules of Evidence ER702. Furthermore, the Court reversed the trial court's decision with respect to their Land Use Petition Act (LUPA) claims, finding that LUPA did not apply to the homeowners' inverse condemnation claim. The Court affirmed the trial court in all other respects. View "Lakey v. Puget Sound Energy" on Justia Law

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The Automotive United Trades Organization (AUTO) and Tower Energy Group (Tower) brought an as-applied state constitutional challenge to a tax based on the possession of petroleum as a hazardous substance. AUTO and Tower claimed that the hazardous substances tax (HST) violated article II, section 40 of the state constitution because the revenue from motor vehicle fuel was not being "placed in a special fund to be used exclusively for highway purposes." The trial court held on summary judgment that AUTO's claim was barred because it was not filed within a reasonable time under the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act (UDJA) and that the HST does not violate article II, section 40. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part. The Court reversed the trial court in barring AUTO and Tower from bringing their constitutional challenge because to do so would deprive the Supreme Court of its vested power to determine the constitutionality of specific legislation. The Court affirmed the trial court, however, in granting summary judgment to the State because article II, section 40 provides that "this section shall not be construed to include revenue from general or special taxes or excises not levied primarily for highway purposes." View "Auto. United Trades Org. v. Washington" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the deduction in RCW 82.04.433(1) applies to reduce Business and Occupation (B&O) taxes for manufacturing activities. Plaintiff Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company owns and operates a refinery in Washington state from which it processes crude oil from Alaska, Canada and other sources. The legislature created a tax deduction for the amount of tax "derived from the sales of fuel for consumption outside the territorial waters of the United States." On its monthly tax returns from 1999-2007, Tesoro reported its fuel sales on both the "Manufacturing" B&O tax line and the "Wholesaling and Retailing" B&O tax line. After completing an audit of the refinery, Tesoro requested a partial tax refund claiming the deduction against amounts paid in B&O tax on manufacturing from 1999 through 2004. The request was denied by the Department of Revenue's (DOR) appeals division on the ground that the deduction applied only to taxes paid under the "wholesaler and retailer" B&O tax line. Tesoro appealed to the superior court; the Court of Appeals held that the company could deduct the amount of its "offshore" bunker fuel sales from its B&O taxes. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the superior court's grant of summary judgment to the DOR: "the plain language of RCW 82.04.433(1) … indicates that the B&O deduction applies only to ... taxes on wholesale and retail sales, not on manufacturing." View "Tesoro Ref. & Mktg. Co. v. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law