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Alford v. Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 4, 2015

CATHERINE P. ALFORD, ET AL.,
v.
ANADARKO E&P ONSHORE LLC, ET AL., Section R REF: No. 13-5703

ORDER AND REASONS

SARAH S. VANCE, District Judge.

Defendants Chevron U.S.A. Inc., Chevron U.S.A. Holdings, Inc., Four Star Oil and Gas Company, and Gulf Oil Corporation (collectively "Chevron"); Anadarko E&P Onshore, LLC; BP America Production Company and Pan American Petroleum Corporation (collectively "BP"); Hilcorp Energy I, L.P.; and French Gulf Coast Partners move to dismiss several of plaintiffs' claims.[1] For the following reasons, the Court grants BP's motion in part and denies it in part, and grants Chevron's, Andarko's, Hilcorp's, and French's motions.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

This "legacy litigation" lawsuit centers on property that plaintiffs allegedly own and/or use in Township 21 South, Range 28 East, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, in the Bastian Bay Field, [2] which defendants allegedly harmed with their oil and gas exploration and production activities.[3] On May 3, 2013, plaintiffs brought a host of claims in Louisiana state court based on these alleged harms; defendants removed the suit to this Court several months later.[4] The Louisiana Supreme Court refers to this type of lawsuit as "legacy litigation" because it "arise[s] from [oilfield] operations conducted many decades ago" that left "an unwanted legacy' in the form of actual or alleged contamination." Marin v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 48 So.3d 234, 238 n.1 (La. 2010) (citing Loulan Pitre, Jr., "Legacy Litigation" and Act 312 of 2006, 20 Tul. Envt. L.J. 347, 348 (2007)).

The motions currently before the Court are second round motions to dismiss. The Court issued an earlier order[5] in which it dismissed all of plaintiffs' claims against Andarko and BP except for plaintiffs' claims for breach of Andarko's and BP's implied obligations as mineral lessees under Civil Code articles 2683(2), 2686, and 2692, and Mineral Code articles 11 and 122. The order also dismissed all of plaintiffs' claims against Chevron except for the following claims:

• Claims for breach of Chevron's implied obligations as a mineral lessee under La. Civ. Code arts. 2683(2), 2686, and 2692, and Mineral Code articles 11 and 122
• A negligence claim under La. Civ. Code art. 2315 and a claim under § 324A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts, as interpreted by Louisiana jurisprudence
• A trespass claim
• A claim under La. Civ. Code art. 667, which restricts the manner in which neighbors may use their property.

The order also dismissed all of plaintiffs' claims against Hilcorp and French except for the following claims:

• Claims for breach of Chevron's implied obligations as a mineral lessee under La. Civ. Code arts. 2683(2), 2686, and 2692, and Mineral Code articles 11 and 122
• A negligence claim under La. Civ. Code art. 2315 and a claim under § 324A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts, as interpreted by Louisiana jurisprudence.

B. Defendants

Plaintiffs have sued nine entities: (1) Anadarko E&P Onshore, LLC; (2) BP American Production Company; (3) Chevron U.S.A. Inc.; (4) Chevron U.S.A. Holdings, Inc.; (5) Four Star Oil and Gas Company; (6) French Gulf Coast Partners; (7) Gulf Oil Corporation; (8) Hilcorp Energy I, L.P.; and (9) Pan American Petroleum Corporation. Plaintiffs allege that some of these entities are successors-in-interest to entities that once held mineral interests in and/or conducted oil and gas operations in the Bastian Bay Field.[6] For the sake of clarity, the Court summarizes these alleged relationships in the following chart:

Defendant in This Case Alleged Predecessor(s)-in-Interest Anadarko • RME Petroleum Company • Union Pacific Resources Company BP American • Pan American Chevron U.S.A. • Gulf Oil Corporation • Tidewater Oil Company • Getty Oil Company • TMR Company • TMRI Holdings, Inc. • Chevron U.S.A. Holdings Chevron U.S.A. Holdings • Texaco Producing Inc. Four Star • Getty Oil

Plaintiffs include several documents supporting these alleged relationships, including:

• documentation of the merger between Chevron U.S.A., Inc. and Gulf Oil;[7]
• documentation of the merger between Tidewater and Getty Oil;[8] and
• documentation reflecting that Union Pacific changed its name to RME Petroleum in 2000.[9]

C. Current Motions to Dismiss

At issue in these second round motions to dismiss is whether plaintiffs have successfully re-pled four claims that the Court dismissed against Chevron, Hilcorp, French, Andarko, and BP in its earlier order: (1) a claim for damages for "land loss, subsidence, and backfilling of canals;" (2) a claim that defendants are strictly liable for violations of Louisiana Civil Code articles 667, 2317, and 2322; (3) a claim for punitive damages under former Louisiana Civil Code article 2315.3; and (4) a claim under Louisiana Mineral Code article 22. BP and Andarko also ask the Court to dismiss plaintiffs' claim against them for negligence under Louisiana Civil Code 2315, and BP asks the Court to dismiss plaintiffs' claim against it for violations of the implied obligations of mineral lessees under Louisiana Mineral Code article 11. After examining the allegations relevant to these claims, the Court determines that plaintiffs may proceed with their claim under Mineral Code article 11 against BP. Plaintiffs' other claims against Chevron, Hilcorp, French, Andarko, and BP fail for the reasons set out in this order.

D. 1954 Mineral Lease and Operator History

Plaintiffs have attached to their complaint several documents relating to mineral operations in the Bastian Bay Field.[10] These include the following documents (defendants in this case in bold):

• an oil and gas lease on the property in the name of Tidewater Associated Oil Company (alleged predecessorin-interest to Chevron), dated May 1, 1954;[11]
• various conveyances of the interests encompassed within that lease, which reflect that French, Union Pacific (alleged predecessor-in-interest to Andarko), Chevron U.S.A. Inc., Texaco (alleged predecessor-in-interest to Chevron), Getty Oil (alleged predecessor-in-interest to Chevron), RME Petroleum (alleged predecessor-ininterest to Andarko), and Hilcorp have held interests in the property;[12]
• a 1997 grant of leave to Union Pacific (alleged predecessor-in-interest to Andarko) to operate a well on the property;[13]
• a 2005 grant of leave to Hilcorp to operate a well on the property;[14]
• a unitization agreement concerning the property executed by Tenneco, Inc., Getty Oil (alleged predecessor-in-interest to Chevron), Pan American (alleged predecessor-in-interest to BP), Phillips Petroleum Company, Callery ...

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