Bracewell & Giuliani

Powered by the attorneys of Bracewell & Giuliani, Energy Legal Blog® is your resource for updates and analysis on national and global energy issues.
  1. Ohio Supreme Court Limits Municipal Regulation of Oil and Gas But Leaves the Door Open for Future Zoning Moratoriums

    Tuesday, February 24, 2015 1:35 pm by

    Last week, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that certain oil and gas-related ordinances of the city of Munroe Falls are preempted by the state’s oil and gas law. State ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp., Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-485. The decision is the latest in an ongoing battle being waged over the authority of local governments to zone or regulate the operations of oil and gas companies. Often, the success or failure of a local government’s ordinance depends on whether it aims to “regulate” oil and gas operations or simply control their location according to traditional zoning principles.

    While a win for industry in this case, the Supreme Court’s holding in State ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp. was limited to the ordinances at issue in the case and does not go as far as recent rulings in Pennsylvania and New York that were focused on zoning authority. Previously, in July 2012, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional certain sections of the recently passed “Act 13” that would have removed a municipality’s ability to zone out oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania. Huntley & Huntley, Inc. v. Oakmont Borough Council, 600 Pa. 207, 964 A.2d 855 (2009). Then, in August 2014, the New York State Court of Appeals held that municipalities can effectively “zone out” oil and gas operations by passing zoning ordinances that ban oil and gas production activities. Wallach v. Dryden, 23 N.Y.3d 728, 992 N.Y.S.2d 710 (2014). (more…)

  2. The FAA Releases First of Its Kind Proposal for Small Drones/Unmanned Aircraft Systems

    Thursday, February 19, 2015 5:08 pm by


    On February 15, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) announced the release of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking focused on the Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) or “drones” within the United States.  The release of the UAS NPRM is a step in the right direction that many in the industry have been waiting for since the FAA first chartered the small UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee (“ARC”) in 2008.

    While some industries may find aspects of the proposal restrictive, many are pleased with the FAA’s initial UAS regulatory effort, which is focused on small UAS or those that weigh less than 55 lbs.  The UAS NPRM will at least remove some uncertainty for industry and could trigger more investment in UAS technology.  However, the process from release of the UAS NPRM to when a final rule takes effect could take years.  Companies looking to operate UAS in the interim are left to navigate one of many current certification processes, which are limited to specific purposes and still involve a bit of uncertainty.

    In the meantime, companies interested in deploying their UAS technology as well as industries that see an expanded role for the use of UAS (e.g., energy, agriculture, entertainment) should consider commenting on the FAA’s proposal, which will set the stage for future of UAS regulation.  There will be an opportunity to comment for a 60-day period once the UAS ANPR is published in the Federal Register. (more…)

  3. Nigeria: Local Content Update for the Oil & Gas Industry

    Tuesday, February 10, 2015 11:17 am by and

    As we reported earlier last year, the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act 2010 (the “Local Content Act”) was enacted to enhance local content in the oil and gas industry and its central aims of  developing indigenous skills across the value chain, promoting indigenous ownership of assets and use of indigenous assets, promoting the establishment of support industries and creating customised training and sustainable employment opportunities currently seem to be well on track.

    With contract award and local participation provisions as central tenets, much rests on the oversight of the Local Content Act by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (the “NCDMB”), whose goals are to ensure continuous and measurable growth of Nigerian content in all oil and gas projects, operations and transactions. The NCDMB has demonstrated commitment to making the Local Content Act work and has received praise from the Minister of Petroleum Resources (also recently elected president of OPEC) who, towards the end of 2014, announced that the Local Content Act had enhanced job creation and indigenous expertise, and had grown local content generally from 3-5% to a significant 12-18%. Further figures released by the NCDMB suggest that $5bn of new investments have been made by Nigerian service companies in the last 4 years and that tens of thousands of jobs have been created. The NCDMB also recently announced that it would be assisting Kenya and Congo-Brazzaville in putting together their own local content laws. (more…)

  4. Nigeria – what consents are now required in upstream M&A transactions?

    Monday, February 9, 2015 5:43 pm by and

    The recent Moni Pulo decision of the Nigerian High Court[1] has changed the settled understanding of when Ministerial consent is required in Nigerian upstream M&A deals. This article considers the consequences of that court decision, the effects seen in recently completed transactions, and the implications when structuring acquisitions/disposals of Nigerian upstream interests.

    The Moni Pulo decision and its background

    A typical feature of petroleum legislation across the world is the need for prior governmental consent before any change is made to the identity of the upstream concession interest-holder. Exactly what kind of change in identity or what sort of transaction will necessitate a consent is not always perfectly prescribed in the law or the underlying petroleum concession, often leading to difficult questions of interpretation, as happened in the Moni Pulo case. (more…)

  5. Gabon 2014 update: The Gabonese farm-out market – ripe for the picking

    4:27 pm by and

    The Gabonese oil and gas industry shifted into “full steam ahead” mode in 2014. Confronted with over a decade of falling oil production, Gabon has decided to actively engage with the industry that still accounts for 80-90% of its total export earnings. On 4 August, Gabon completed a 13-block offshore licencing round which was launched in 2013 and on 28 August, the long-awaited new Petroleum Code became law. It is also rumoured that a further licensing round will be launched in Q3 of 2015 after the government completes the interpretation of 3D seismic data that is currently being acquired. The message from Gabon is that it is open for business and keen to attract foreign investment in the oil and gas sector. (more…)

  6. Electrifying Africa: A View from Washington

    4:05 pm by

    As Western governments continue—and rightfully so—to focus on the threats to African nations from the Ebola virus and Boko Haram, policymakers are also eyeing the continent as a critical producer and consumer of energy in the 21st century.

    Power Africa

    In 2013, President Obama announced an initiative, “Power Africa,” to direct U.S. funds, loan guarantees, and technical assistance to electrification projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. The program is coordinated by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), with 12 different agencies involved in project implementation. Power Africa’s goal is to facilitate the installment of 10,000 MW of new generation capacity. To date, the program has closed on financial transactions that will generate 2,792 MW. (more…)

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