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Public Lands and Resources

The fortunes of energy and infrastructure companies are closely entwined with the federal government, the largest landowner in the United States. The US Department of the Interior alone manages more than 2 billion acres of onshore and offshore federal lands, along with playing a substantial role in the management of tribal lands. Other federal agencies — such as the US Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Energy, Department of State, Department of Commerce and Department of Agriculture — also manage lands and regulatory programs crucial to energy development and many infrastructure projects. Many state governments have also created similar state agencies that are responsible for the oversight of state-owned lands and natural resources. Inevitably, clients engaged in the exploration, development or transportation of natural resources, or the building of other infrastructure, must contend with the federal, tribal and state authorities overseeing public lands and resources. 

Bracewell has decades of experience advising clients in acquiring access to public and tribal lands and minerals, navigating regulatory and policy requirements for land use and royalty obligations, ensuring durable federal decisions that take into account the potential for litigation challenging federal land use decisions, operating within environments that include sensitive resources, addressing investigations and enforcement actions, and pursuing transformative or accretive corporate and financial transactions involving public lands and resources.

In commercial matters, we provide experienced guidance in the acquisition of oil and gas interests on public lands, unit agreements, unit operating agreements, plans of operation, permits to drill, access rights and the transfer of operating rights and record title ownership with the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Indian Affairs, among other agencies. 

In regulatory and policy matters, our team draws insights from years working at the highest levels of the Interior Department, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

In investigative and enforcement matters, we have advised clients on many of the most significant issues affecting public lands in recent years.


Recent Notable Matters

Regulatory, Policy, and Investigative Matters

Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. — Various investigations that arose from the Deepwater Horizon incident, including President Obama’s Special Task Force, the US Congress, and the CSB. Bracewell’s team brought the matter to a very successful resolution for Halliburton – one that included no criminal charges related to the explosion, the oil spill or the environmental impacts.

Offshore services sector — leading advisor in enforcement matters before the Interior Board of Land Appeals (the appeals tribunal within the US Department of the Interior)

Equinor Wind LLC — federal leasing and permitting for commercial-scale wind development project offshore New York

Equinor Wind LLC — defended in federal court the lease auction results for the Empire Wind development project offshore New York

Midstream energy company — advise company seeking easements and permissions from US Army Corps of Engineers to allow placement of pipeline under and across Corps-managed lands

Midstream energy company — assist company in obtaining easements for gas pipelines across Indian lands, including engaging with the Department of the Interior at a policy level to secure waivers of requirements that delayed issuance of needed easements

Midstream energy company — provide advice regarding implications of change in Administration for use of public and Indian oil and gas resources

Midstream energy company – represent company in litigation challenging the issuance of an approved permit to drill by the Bureau of Land Management

Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation — Defended against the Department of Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue allegations of knowing or willful violations of FOGRMA relating to the payment of royalties – in an appeal of an administrative civil penalty related to royalty reporting on federal leases in Wyoming and other states. Advised on offshore financial assurance for idled facilities in Gulf of Mexico.

Midstream oil and gas company — advice and counsel regarding consultation requirements under the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act

Oilfield services and E&P companies — post-Macondo federal policy and regulatory developments affecting energy development; permitting and financial assurance requirements; liability and enforcement; federal land policies; and the requirements of NEPA and species protection

NuStar Energy, L.P. — provide advice on matters related to an application to the US Army Corps of Engineers for a permit and easement

Tesoro — challenge brought by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in Washington State to block the shipment of Bakken crude by rail to Tesoro’s refinery at Anacortes, Washington

Large power utility — provide strategic advice regarding proposed placement of pipeline under lands managed by the National Park Service

Corporate and Finance Matters

Private equity-backed buyer  — $240.55 million acquisition of producing properties on lands owned by the State of Texas and overseen by the Board for Lease of University Lands in the Southern Midland Basin from EP Energy

Private-equity backed bidder submission of a bid to purchase certain oil and gas leasehold, wells, and infrastructure on lands owned by the State of Texas and overseen by the Board for Lease of University Lands, including the -negotiation of certain Consolidated Drilling and Development Unit Agreements with the Board for Lease of University Lands

Equinor — $1.1 billion sale of a 50 percent interest in two US offshore wind development projects to British Petroleum, including formation of a partnership to develop and operate the Empire Wind project offshore New York and Beacon Wind project offshore Massachusetts, which together could generate up to 4.4 GW

Echo Energy Partners I, LLC — sale of substantially all of its SCOOP/Stack assets to HPS Investment Partners LLC for approximately $32.96 million out of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, including the transfer and assignment of certain lands managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Commissioner’s Land Office of Oklahoma

Hilcorp Energy Company joint exploration and development agreement with Otto Energy for the development of eight federally managed prospects onshore the Gulf of Mexico

Eni Petroleum US LLC acquisition of 70 percent and operatorship of the Oooguruk oil field in Alaska from Caelus Natural Resources Alaska, LLC, including the negotiation of the terms of the Oooguruk unit contraction

Harvest Midstream Company $1.125 billion acquisition from Williams Partners L.P. of certain federally managed oil and gas assets and infrastructure in the Four Corners area, including over 3,700 miles of pipeline, two gas processing plants and a CO2 treating facility

Private-equity backed bidder submission of a bid to purchase certain minerals, mining operations, and oil and gas production spanning across Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming valued at over $1 billion

Private-equity backed bidder submission of a bid to purchase certain railroad grant minerals, oil and gas production, and related infrastructure spanning across Wyoming, including more than 2,800 active wells

Independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company — sale of substantially all of its Gulf of Mexico assets to Fieldwood Energy LLC for over $700 million

Pioneer Natural Resources Company sale of assets in the Raton Basin in southeastern Colorado to Evergreen Natural Resources LLC

Noble Energy, Inc. sale of 30,200 net acres in the DJ Basin in Weld County, Colorado to SRC Energy Inc. for $608 million

Venoco, LLC Debtors with oil and gas assets off the California coast on federal lands entered Chapter 11 proceedings to restructure their capital structure by obtaining confirmation of a plan of reorganization just four months after filing for bankruptcy. The M&A Advisor recognized this transaction as the Turnaround Awards 2017 Energy Deal of the Year (over $100 million to $500 million). Due to unforeseeable operational issues, Venoco filed a second Chapter 11 proceeding in April 2017 in which brokered settlements with several holders of decommissioning claims, led to a consensual Chapter 11 plan that was confirmed in May 2018. Prior to the Chapter 11 filings, the company was advised in a series of strategic transactions that were recognized as the 2015 Turnaround Awards Out‐of‐Court Restructuring Deal of the Year (over $500 million).

Eni Petroleum US LLC numerous shelf divestitures of federally managed leasehold and infrastructure to various undisclosed buyers

Apache Corporation — $1.4 billion sale of its interests in the Lucius and Heidelberg deepwater Gulf of Mexico developments to Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc

Apache Corporation $3.75 billion sale of Gulf of Mexico OCS assets to Fieldwood Energy LLC

Independent exploration and production company – pipe-within-a-pipe joint venture on Mineral Leasing Act (“MLA”) lands in Colorado including an analysis of MLA common carrier requirements

Kinder Morgan, Inc. $7.15 billion sale of El Paso’s exploration and production business unit which includes assets in the Eagle Ford Shale, Permian Basin, Haynesville Shale, Black Warrior Basin, Uintah Basin, Raton Basin, Powder River Basin, Gulf of Mexico, and in Egypt and Brazil

Plains Exploration & Production Company $560 million acquisition from Shell Offshore Inc. of 50 percent working interest in the Holstein Field, located in the Gulf of Mexico

Ursa Resources Group II — $325 million acquisition of Antero Resources oil and gas assets in the Piceance Basin in Colorado

Apache Corporation $500 million acquisition of a privately held entity owning oil and gas assets located in onshore and offshore Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico

Apache Corporation $7 billion acquisition of BP's oil and gas operations, acreage and infrastructure in the Permian Basin of West Texas, Egypt's Western Desert, and New Mexico, as well as BP's upstream natural gas business in western Alberta and British Columbia

Eni Petroleum US LLC and Eni US Operating Co. Inc. sale of certain Gulf of Mexico assets to GDF SUEZ NA E&P LLC

Eni Petroleum $4.83 billion acquisition of Dominion's OCS Gulf of Mexico assets

Multinational investment bank and financial services company  $168 million minerals monetization, including coal and trona mineral assets, with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation in Wyoming