Oil well blowout; no coverage for remediation costs.

Pioneer suffered an oil well blowout and paid millions to restore order.  It sued for reimbursement under its umbrella policy and the Fifth Circuit affirmed judgment for the insurer, based largely on the broad language of the relevant exclusions.  Pioneer Exploration LLC v. Steadfast Ins. Co., No. 13-30802 (Sept. 22, 2014).  Pioneer argued that the “owned, rented or occupied” exclusion did not apply to a mineral lease.  The Court disagreed, noting that the mineral lease gave Pioneer some control over surface land, and that the broad language of the exclusion reached activity associated with oil production (citing Aspen Ins. UK, Ltd. v. Dune Energy, Inc., No. 10-30335 (5th Cir. Nov. 8, 2010, unpublished)).  Further, noting that Louisiana law allowed debate as to whether an “owned property” exclusion reached remediation costs incurred to minimize liability to third parties, the Court found that this exclusion “specifically excludes containment costs” (reviewing Norfolk Southern Corp. v. California Union Ins., 859 So. 2d 167 (La. App. 2003)).”  Finally, as to another exclusion, the Court found that the insured could not meaningfully allocate expense “between controlling costs and plugging costs.”

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