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- This past year proved active for Ohio’s oil and gas industry. We saw exploration and drilling operations increase substantially and migrate further south (there are currently 44 rigs operating in Ohio, and some operations have extended further south into Washington County). We also saw the first quarterly production report issued by the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management (“Division”), showing strong production results for the third quarter of the year (33.6 Bcf of natural gas and 1.33 MMbbls of oil). And we saw significant midstream infrastructure growth throughout the year, including the opening of the Momentum processing and fractionation plant and the opening – and temporary closing – of Dominion’s Natrium processing and fractionation plant right across the Ohio River near Natrium, W.Va.
But the activity hasn’t been only on the operational side – there have been several substantial developments on the legal side of Ohio’s oil and gas industry as well. To assist our clients and friends, we have summarized a number of those developments.
- In 1878, the nation’s first commercial natural gas well was drilled in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. Since then, oil and natural gas have played a vital role in Pennsylvania’s economy. Despite this history of oil and natural gas production, the Commonwealth has relatively little case law and legislative regulation to guide the industry. Due to the recent surge in production of Marcellus Shale gas, Pennsylvania’s production of natural gas increased by 72% from 2011 to 2012. According to a report issued by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on December 17, 2013, Pennsylvania is the fastest-growing natural gas-producing state, and preliminary data suggests that Pennsylvania may have been the second-largest producer of natural gas in 2013. Not surprisingly, the current state of oil and gas law in Pennsylvania reflects the Commonwealth’s attempts to manage this rapid increase in natural gas production.
The judiciary, legislature and regulatory agencies have attempted to balance the benefits of natural gas production against the concerns of the public. However, many issues remain unresolved. To assist our clients and friends in navigating this quickly developing area of the law, we have summarized a number of the important decisions and enactments of the past year.
- A recent pro-employer decision by the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has provided some helpful guidance for employers looking to avoid and defend against claims for unpaid time under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). White v. Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., 699 F. 3d (6th Cir. 2012). The Sixth Circuit is the federal court of appeals for Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky.
- On February 12, 2014, a substitute version of House Bill 375 (the Bill) was introduced in the Ohio General Assembly. The Bill proposes several significant changes to the version of House Bill 375 that was first introduced in December 2013, and if enacted, the Bill would make several significant changes to Ohio’s existing oil and gas severance tax laws. The most significant proposed changes in the Bill are summarized in this alert.
- On the popular business review website Yelp, it is no secret that many individuals post fake reviews and sometimes defamatory content. Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Yelp cannot be held liable for false or defamatory statements made by its users.
- A positive about Yelp is that content can be removed and, thus, the impact it may have on businesses can be mitigated. This alert outlines the options available to businesses.
- Whistleblower Defense Client Alert: What Government Contractors Should Know About Fraud-In-The-Inducement CasesA recent holding from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania contains some helpful analysis for defendants facing a fraud-in-the inducement False Claims Act (FCA) case. A fraud-in-the-inducement case is a rare sub-species of FCA cases, with different rules. Unlike a traditional FCA case, there is nothing “false,” factually or legally, on the face of the claims for payment at issue in a fraud-in-the inducement case. Instead, the otherwise unobjectionable claims are false by virtue of the fact that they were submitted under a contract that was procured through the use of false statements.
- Wikipedia is home to more than 30 million articles and has nearly 80,000 active contributors, according to the website. These figures are a product of its “openly editable model,” where virtually anyone with internet access can add or edit content on the website. The online encyclopedia’s strength relies in its founders giving their power to the people, but in doing so they opened the door to abuse.
- Health Care Alert: OIG Advisory Opinion 14-01 - No Sanctions for Arrangement Where Placement Agency Receive Fees for Referral of New Residents to Senior CommunitiesThe Office of Inspector General posted OIG Advisory Opinion No. 14-01 on January 21, 2014 in response to a nonprofit senior housing and geriatric care provider’s question of whether it may pay an independent placement agency a fee for referring new residents to certain of its facilities. Despite concerns that the arrangement could potentially generate prohibited remuneration under the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), the OIG found that the facts and circumstances of the arrangement sufficiently mitigated any fraud and abuse risks.
- In a recently published final rule, CMS established the requirements for settings that may be eligible sites for the delivery of reimbursable Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) provided under sections 1915(c), 1915(i) and 1915(k) of the Medicaid statute.
- Whistleblower Defense Client Alert - Fourth Circuit: Amended Public Disclosure Bar No Longer JurisdictionalRecently, the Fourth Circuit became the first court of appeals to address whether the public disclosure bar, as amended in 2010 by the Affordable Care Act, remains a jurisdictional defense to False Claims Act allegations. The opinion in U.S. ex rel. Radcliffe v. Purdue Pharma L.P. is significant because the district courts are divided on whether the public disclosure bar remains jurisdictional after the amendment.
- A Look Back... Before we delve into what we anticipate for Ohio’s taxes in 2014, the Vorys state and local tax team takes a look back at some of our Top Tax Topics to Watch for 2013. There were varying degrees of development with respect to the topics we identified last year, but several are worth noting.
- Labor and Employment Alert: Dental and Vision Coverage as an Excepted Benefit and Other Employee Benefit NewsSummary: ACA mandates don’t apply to health plans classified as “excepted benefits.” The government has proposed regulations expanding the definition of excepted benefits to include self-insured dental and vision coverage even if that coverage is provided without employee contributions.
- Oil and Gas Alert: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio Certifies DMA Questions to the Supreme Court of OhioThe U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio recently certified two important questions of law concerning the Ohio Dormant Mineral Act (DMA) to the Supreme Court of Ohio.
- The Ohio Supreme Court issued a decision today confirming the constitutionality of the state's decision to expand the Medicaid program through an action of the Controlling Board. The Court rejected a constitutional challenge made by six legislators.
- On November 18, 2013, Columbus City Council passed Ordinance No. 2649-2013 (the Ordinance), which expands both the geographic area covered by the Downtown Community Reinvestment Area (the CRA) and expands the scope of real property tax exemptions available within the CRA.
- On December 4, 2013, House Bill 375 (the Bill) was introduced in the Ohio General Assembly. If enacted, the Bill would make several significant changes to Ohio’s existing oil and gas severance tax laws. The most significant proposed changes in the Bill are summarized in this alert.
- Most businesses use music in some capacity to create the right ambiance, draw a crowd or even to pacify holding telephone customers. The right music can influence purchasing decisions, how fast patrons at a restaurant eat and how satisfied customers feel in their dealings with your business. For these reasons, music is a valuable asset to your business. However, it is also a valuable asset to those that create it.
- Health Care Alert: Qualified Health Plans on the Marketplace Are Not Subject to the Anti-Kickback Statute, but There’s More to the Story…On October 30, 2013, in a letter to Representative Jim McDermott, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius clarified that qualified health plans (QHPs) available in the health insurance Marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are not “federal health care programs.”
- State and Local Tax Alert: Ohio Supreme Court Issues Decision Holding the Ohio General Assembly’s Constitutional Powers Do Not Trump Worthington’s Constitutional Power to Levy TaxesThe Vorys state and local tax group scored an important municipal income tax victory for taxpayers. The decision also helps clarify a complex area of Ohio Constitutional law. Gesler et al. v. City of Worthington Income Tax Board of Appeals et al. involved competing Ohio Constitutional provisions. On one hand, the Ohio Constitution confers upon home rule municipalities all powers of local self-government which includes the power to levy taxes. On the other hand, the Ohio Constitution confers upon the Ohio General Assembly the power to limit home rule municipalities’ power to levy taxes.