John J. Harris
John J. Harris is a Partner at Casso & Sparks LLP and brings nearly 40 years of experience representing oil and gas producers, financial institutions, public agencies, working interest owners, service and midstream companies, developers, land and mineral owners, and power producers, on oil and gas, environmental, financing and energy matters. John has extensive experience in all aspects of oil and gas, environmental and energy law, including the wide range of operational problems faced by energy producers doing business in California and in other states. He also has significant experience representing oil and gas, industrial and local government clients in litigation, transactional, financing and regulatory matters.
With his broad transactional experience, John has helped energy industry clients in the purchase, sale and financing of oil and gas producing properties and pipelines, oil and gas lease negotiations, operating agreements, farmout and joint venture agreements and production purchase and sales agreements, as well as agreements with governmental agencies. He has also provided enforceability and mineral title opinions and has assisted clients in resolving complex title issues.
John has extensive experience in the day-to-day legal issues that face energy producers in California, from obtaining permits for energy operations and facilities to resolving issues with environmental regulators. He also advises clients and interacts with legislators and regulators regarding matters affecting the energy industry in California.
John has represented clients in many different types of oil and gas, environmental and regulatory litigation, including lawsuits over the rights of working interest owners under joint operating agreements, accounting disputes, oil and gas lease litigation, drainage and development and subsurface trespass claims, actions for breach of implied covenants and fiduciary duty, quiet-title matters and other title disputes, claims for misuse of confidential information, constitutional questions, secured transactions issues and securities fraud cases.
John’s environmental litigation and public agency practice has included many Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) cases, contaminated property cleanup and cost recovery cases, as well as administrative actions, mandate cases and environmental insurance coverage claims.
John’s diverse and extensive experience has given him an opportunity to gain an understanding of the engineering, geologic and other technical issues, as well as the business, practical, environmental and political considerations, involved in energy operations in California.
John also regularly advises public agency and private entity clients on the impact of federal and California environmental laws. He has worked with clients on obtaining permits and approvals from California environmental agencies, such as the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM), Regional Water Quality Control Boards, the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, as well as other state and local agencies. He has negotiated remediation agreements and consent decrees with California environmental agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. John has worked with many clients in their efforts to redevelop and remediate brownfields sites. He has represented landowners, developers and oil companies in negotiations for the abandonment and remediation of oil producing properties. He has also advised clients throughout California on their environmental compliance efforts, and, in particular, issues relating to the control of storm water and urban runoff and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System issues.
Oil and Gas Transactional Matters
- Represented buyers and sellers in transactions for transfer of oil and gas producing properties, farmout and farm-in agreements, operating agreements, oil and gas lease negotiations, production purchase and sales agreements.
- Assisted borrowers and lenders in financing and re-financing transactions secured by producing properties in California, including providing enforceability opinions and acting as a local counsel.
- Local counsel for lending consortium for debt restructuring of large California producer.
- Representation of seller in divestiture of surface and oil and gas rights in large producing property in Los Angeles County.
- Representation of buyer in the due diligence for the acquisition of large, producing unit in urban area in Los Angeles County, including tidelands areas.
- Representation of oil companies in disputes with state controllers over the escheat of royalty suspense accounts.
- Representation of seller in sale of Downtown Los Angeles Oil Field.
- Representation of buyer in the environmental due diligence for the acquisition of California pipeline and facilities.
- Representation of property developers in negotiations with the CalGEM regarding the re-abandonment of wells.
- Representation of sellers in divestiture of heavy oil producing properties in Kern County.
- Advised major oil company regarding permitting of potential oil and gas exploration and development operations in Santa Barbara County.
- Representation of investment fund in financing of acquisition of large producing property in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
- Representation of lending consortium on restructuring obligations with respect to offshore California platform.
- Prepared title opinions relating to oil and gas property acquisitions and sales, and enforceability opinions for the financing of oil and gas acquisitions.
- Advised oil company on title issues and provided title opinions relating to acquisition of large heavy oil producing property in Kern County.
- Advised oil company on title issues associated with pooling and unitization of properties in the City of Los Angeles.
- Representation of purchaser of overriding royalty interest on large producing fields in Orange and Los Angeles County.
- Representation of buyer in acquisition of producing properties in Wyoming.
- Represented oil producers in obtaining state and local permits for construction and operation of oil and gas exploration, production, manufacturing facility, and transportation, storage and disposal facilities.
- Advised oil and gas operators regarding agreements to re-abandon wells in Orange County and Los Angeles County.
- Assisted major oil company in obtaining drilling and land use permits for development of large California shale prospect.
- Representation of foreign owned oil producer in negotiation of oil and gas lease and related surface use agreements on project in sensitive coastal area in Los Angeles County.
- Representation of major oil company in negotiation of oil and gas leases and surface use agreements covering 50,000 acres in California.
- Representation of Japanese power company in negotiation of agreements relating to steam supply for heavy oil / steam injection project in Kern County.
- Representation of Canadian oil and gas company on farm-in of heavy oil / steam injection project in Kern County and in drafting of joint operating agreement and collateral agreements.
- Representation of potential buyer in negotiation of acquisition of oil and gas field for gas storage purposes.
- Represented seller in negotiation for sale of product pipelines in Orange County, California.
- Representation of bank in re-financing transactions secured by offshore producing properties in California.
- Represented mineral owners and major oil companies in negotiations for oil and gas leases and seismic and exploration agreements.
- Representation of large farming company in negotiation of oil and gas lease and surface use agreement covering agricultural property in Ventura County.
- Representation of property owner in negotiation of lease for pipeline facility.
- Ongoing advisory assistance to California oil and gas operators regarding regulatory compliance.
- Drafted and negotiated pipeline franchises and ordinances.
- Represented oil storage company in the purchase and sale of product pipelines in Los Angeles Harbor area.
- Representation of Canadian pipeline company in pursuing claims with insurance carriers arising from pipeline rupture in a river.
- Negotiation of assignment of lease for pipeline pumping station and transmission facilities in Kern County.
Environmental Transactional and Regulatory Matters
- Chief environmental counsel for the Los Angeles to Pasadena Metro Blue Line Construction Authority with responsibilities including the oversight of the environmental aspects of the property acquisition, construction and remediation for a light rail project, as well as joint development of station sites.
- Supervision of legal aspects of numerous environmental remediation projects, including contracting with and supervision of environmental consultants, including clean-up of producing properties, tank farms and facilities and underground storage tank sites.
- Representation of the cities and redevelopment agencies in acquisitions and remediation of numerous properties, including the redevelopment of a 93-acre former landfill site as a Brownfields project.
- Represented city in negotiations with the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and private parties regarding the clean-up of lead contamination from a former firing range beneath a city park and in criminal investigation regarding disposal of lead contaminated soil.
- Developed the Environmental Oversight Agreement in partnership with the Department of Toxic Substances Control.
- Representation of cities in public enforcement of environmental ordinances.
- Representation of city in negotiations to acquire oil producing property to be developed for sports and recreational facilities.
- Counsel for landowner in negotiations with Regional Water Quality Control Board for permitting of inert waste landfill and in defending the issuance of waste discharge requirements before the State Water Resources Control Board.
- Counsel for City in negotiations with Regional Water Quality Control Board for permitting for remedation and development of former industrial facility.
- Negotiated remediation agreements, consent decrees and prospective purchaser agreements with California environmental agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Represented buyers and sellers in transactions for transfer and financing of oil and gas producing properties, coal seam gas properties, pipelines, oil and gas lease negotiations, operating agreements, and production purchase and sales agreements, as well as agreements with governmental agencies.
Oil and Gas, Environmental and Energy Litigation
- City of Gardena v. Regional Water Quality Control Board- Los Angeles Region. et al. - Representation of city in successful Superior Court mandate petition challenging the terms of the 2012 Municipal NPDES Permit for Los Angeles County resulting in an award of the City’s attorney’s fees.
- City of Industry v. San Gabriel Valley Water & Power LLC, et al., - Representation of city in False Claims Act lawsuit against developer of a failed solar project.
- In re Angus Petroleum Corporation - Representation of oil and gas operator in administrative proceedings before the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources regarding water injection and permit to operate waterflood.
- In re St. James Oil Corporation - Defense of operator in administrative proceedings before the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources in penalty and enforcement proceedings regarding injection wells.
- Carson Harbor Village Ltd. v. County of Los Angeles, et al. - Successful defense of the City of Carson on Clean Water Act, CERCLA, RCRA and common law claims and contribution and indemnity cross-claims relating to claims of contaminants in storm water. (See, Carson Harbor Village, Ltd. v. Unocal Corporation, 990 F. Supp. 1188 (C.D. Cal 1997), affirmed on appeal, Carson Harbor Village, Ltd. v. Unocal Corporation, et al., 270 F.3d 865 (9th Cir. 2001).
- Hess Corporation v. Western Energy Production, LLC - Representation of operator in quiet title action resulting in quitclaim of top leases.
- Cedars-Sinai Medical Center v. Atlantic Richfield Company, et al. - Successful defense of mineral and land property owner in suit brought by adjoining property owner alleging environmental contamination relating to oil production operations.
- People v. Bridgemark Corporation - Defense of oil and gas operator in action by county for penalties relating to condition of wellsite.
- Stieglitz-FLM Enterprises v. Power Run Oil, LLC, et al. - Defense of operator in action by lessor to compel the abandonment of producing well.
- Catlin Specialty Insurance v. Yoelin - Representation of insured in coverage and bad faith action against two carriers on claims regarding petroleum storage tanks.
- Bach v. Yoelin - Defense of operator in action by landowner tocompel the abandonment of storage tanks and environmental remediation. Obtained preliminary injunction against landowner enjoining interference with operator’s access to producing wells.
- Community Health Councils, Inc. v. County of Los Angeles, etc. - Representation of surface and mineral owner in writ proceeding brought by environmental groups challenging local regulation of oil and gas development of urban field in Los Angeles County.
- Hay v. Commonwealth Insurance Co., et al. - Action against ten insurance carriers resulting in payment of defense costs and other payments in settlement of bad faith claims.
- City of Huntington Beach v. K.J. Enterprises, et al. - Representation of a municipal lessor in an action to compel operator to plug and abandon an idle well and remediate beach maintenance facility.
- Ameron International Corp. v. TAMCO - Representation of plaintiff in dispute over sale of water rights.
- Kings County Development Limited, et al., v. American Barter Petroleum, Inc., et al. - Representation of mineral owners in quiet title action regarding termination of oil and gas lease and use of a water disposal well.
- Kings County Development Limited v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., et al. - Representation of mineral owner in action to recover damages for drainage and failure to operate in accordance with good oilfield practices, resulting in a favorable settlement for client.
- Potter v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., et al. - Representation of royalty owner in accounting action regarding payment of net profits interest, resulting in a favorable settlement to client.
- Decalta International Corporation v. Royal Insurance of Canada, et al. - Representation of the oil and gas operator in action against 14 insurance carriers for defense costs and future remediation costs at Oil Superfund site. The case resulted in a favorable settlement for client.
- Wuerth et al. v. Decalta International Corporation and Petrorep, Inc. - Successful defense of producers against environmental claims of a subsequent purchaser of an abandoned oil and gas producing property and obtained the recovery of the producer’s defense fees and costs.
- Noble v. Bridge Oil, Ltd. et al. - Representation of U.S. royalty owners in a series of cases against them by Australian operators for non-payment of overriding royalties on producing fields in the Surat Basin in Queensland. The case resulted in settlements of $5 million plus.
- Miller v. Union Oil Company of California - Representation of a surface owner of producing property in Santa Fe Springs to compel operator to plug and abandon idle wells and remediate environmental contamination so that property could be developed for commercial purposes.
- Cole v. American Titan Oil Company et al. - Successful defense of an independent oil company in a lease forfeiture action based on claims of environmental damage.
- City of Norwalk v. Five Point U-Serve, Inc., et al. - Representation of public water supplier in action to recover cost of remediating contamination of water supply well.
- AES Redondo Beach, LLC v. City of Redondo Beach - Representation of city in administrative and judicial proceedings regarding the assessment of $56 million utility users tax on natural gas used at an electrical generating plant.
- Phillips Petroleum Co. v. County of Los Angeles, et al., and Shell Oil Company, et al. v. County of Los Angeles, et al. - defense of 11 cities in CERCLA action regarding the alleged disposal of municipal waste at the Cal Compact Disposal Site in Los Angeles County.
- In re Los Angeles County Municipal Stormwater Permit Litigation - Representation of eight cities in administrative and Superior Court petitions, challenging the terms of the Municipal NPDES Permit for Los Angeles County.
- City of Brea v. Esco Rubber Company - Representation of a city in action to recover environmental response and remediation costs.
- City of Brea v. Hall & Foreman, Inc., et al. - Representation of a city in action to recover from consultants and contractors inflated costs for remediating a former oil producing property.
- In the Matter of the Casmalia Disposal Site - Negotiation of CERCLA de minimis administrative settlement agreement and consent decree with USEPA and other parties on behalf of oil operators
- United States et al. v. Chevron Chemical Company, et al. - Negotiation of CERCLA de minimis administrative settlement agreement and consent decree with USEPA and other parties on behalf of oil operators who sent oilfield wastes to Operating Industries, Inc. Superfund Site.
Publications and Presentations
- Presenter, “Managing Environmental Risk in Oil and Gas Transactions”, West Coast Landmen’s Institute 2018
- Co-Author, “Locke Lord QuickStudy: Economic Loss Rule Precludes Negligence Claims in the Southern California Gas Leak Litigation,” December 21, 2017
- Presenter, Managing Energy Sector Distress, West Coast Landmen’s Institute 2015
- California Legal and Regulatory Issues-How Operators Are Complying with SB4- California Tight Oil Reservoirs Conference, Bakersfield, California, June 2014
- Presenter, “Water Management for California Shale Plays- Legal and Regulatory Issues”, Denver, May 2014; Houston, February 2013 and Pittsburgh, October 2013
- Presenter, “Typical California Oil and Gas Title Litigation Issues,” HalfMoon seminar, 2012
- Presenter, “What Isn’t Covered by the AAPL Joint Operating Agreement,” Los Angeles Association of Professional Landmen, March 2012
- Presenter, “Permitting and Governmental Approvals for Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Operations in California,” HalfMoon seminar, 2011
- Presenter, “Oil and Gas Royalties,” West Coast Land Institute, Santa Barbara, Calif., 2011
- Presenter, “Oil and Gas Exploration and Development Agreements,” HalfMoon seminar, 2010
- Presenter, “Local Land Use Regulations Relating to Oil and Gas Operations,” West Coast Land Institute, 2010
- Presenter, “California Conservation, Capture, Pooling and Unitization,” HalfMoon seminar, 2010
- Presenter, “Examining Exploration Agreements, Options and Joint Ventures,” HalfMoon seminar, 2009
- Presenter, “Oil and Gas Law Update,” Bakersfield Association of Petroleum Landmen, 2008
- Presenter, “Look Out Below-Protecting Oil and Gas and Surface Access Rights from Competing Surface Development and Local Zoning Regulations,” Los Angeles Association of Petroleum Landmen, 2008
- The Practical and Legal Aspects of Managing Environmental Review of Extended Right of Way Projects, IRWA.
- Institutional Controls on Contaminated Sites, California Redevelopment Association Legal Issues Symposium.
- GASB New Accounting Requirements for Pollution Remediation, CSAC EIA Board of Director.
- New Approaches to Old Problems: Mixing and Matching Brownfields Tools to Maximize Redevelopment Opportunities.
- A Year in the Life of a Development Deal: Land Use Impacts on Real Estate Transactions, Bakersfield.