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Shale & Hydraulic Fracturing Disputes

Vinson & Elkins stands at the forefront of legal developments affecting our clients’ businesses, including the myriad of issues encountered in recovering oil and gas from unconventional resource plays across the United States. With decades of experience as lead counsel in virtually all types of energy-related disputes, V&E trial lawyers are intimately familiar with the technical aspects of shale and hydraulic fracturing, and our clients’ business operations in these areas.


Scope of Practice

Our litigators have a deep understanding of the unique regulatory, environmental, and contractual issues that often give rise to disputes in connection with unconventional resource development. We have assisted clients in a wide variety of disputes involving all aspects of the exploration and production process, and have handled litigation and arbitration for a broad range of clients, including producers, pipelines, and oilfield service companies.


Pre-Litigation Advice & Training

V&E’s legal representation in cases involving unconventional oil and gas operations includes proactive advice and counseling to help clients avoid litigation and strategically position themselves in the event of litigation. Our clients receive pre-litigation counsel on issues relating to joint operating agreements, local and state regulation, contamination claims, surface owner disputes, and title issues. By involving us early in the process, our clients are often able to avoid costly litigation.

Experience Highlights

  • Obtained a major victory for a U.S. E&P company in an AAA arbitration in connection with the purchase of more than 20,000 acres of leases in the Utica Shale for US$120 million; after discovery and evidentiary hearings, the arbitrator ruled in favor of our client on all claims; the award obligates the opposing party to pay the significant per-acre bonus if payment is required to avoid termination of the defective leases

  • (W. Va.) — Representing an exploration and production company on proceedings related to an attempt to enjoin hydraulic fracturing and completion operations on wells drilled on the Ohio River in West Virginia

  • (Colo. Dist. − Denver Cnty.) — Representing a leading independent E&P company in four environmental and personal injury lawsuits, one of which is a class action, relating to the drilling and hydraulic fracturing of natural gas reservoirs in Colorado and Pennsylvania. These cases are among the first of their kind in a growing trend of mass tort lawsuits against energy companies developing such assets

  • Representing a major oil and gas company in an investigation brought by a state attorney general concerning disclosure of financial risks relating to development of natural gas resources from unconventional formations

  • Advising public exploration and production companies and oilfield service companies in responding to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requests and comments related to hydraulic fracturing operations

  • Evaluating and responding to investor concerns regarding hydraulic fracturing practices by investigating and comparing portfolio company practices to investor-proposed “guidelines” and drafting a policy statement on hydraulic fracturing operations that aligns with client interests while satisfying investor concerns

  • Advised an international EPC company involved in numerous power, oil, and water endeavors on litigation and regulatory risks, regulatory compliance issues, and contractual allocation of risks related to water issues arising from hydraulic fracturing operations

  • (Tex. Dist.); (Del. Ch.) — Represented purchaser of an energy company in several shareholder class actions pending in Texas state and federal courts and the Delaware Court of Chancery challenging the acquisition of a US$4.4 billion exploration and production company

  • (N.D. Tex.) (5th Cir.) Obtained and upheld summary judgment in bankruptcy court, federal district court, and the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of an independent oil and gas company on title claims related to leases and wells in the Barnett Shale

  • Representing independent oil and gas producer in appeal of Order to Report and Pay issued by the Office of Natural Resources Revenue for alleged underpayment of federal royalties on coalbed methane produced in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin