**This article is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.**
It was a busy week across the country for ag law issues. Today we have updates from issues in Texas, New Mexico, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Colorado.
* Texas Comptroller Susan Combs Seeks Funding from Congress for Endangered Species Act Analysis. The Comptroller was in Washington, DC this week to pitch her idea that Congress create a $50 million National Science Fund to conduct independent research into animals proposed to be listed as endangered species, which would factor in the economic damage to communities when a species is designated under the Act. Combs points to the overwhelming number of potential listings facing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a main reason for needing this independent review fund. [Read article here.]
*Lawsuit challenges Mora County, New Mexico’s fracking ban. As previously discussed on this blog, Mora County, New Mexico, gained national attention when it became the first county in the United States to issue a complete ban on fracking. When the ban was enacted, the county understood that litigation was likely. This week, that likelihood became a reality as a lawsuit was filed in federal court challenging Mora County’s fracking ban. [Read Complaint here.] The lawsuit was filed by the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico and three landowners who claim that the ban is unconstitutional and violates state laws. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that Mora County lacks the authority to pass this type of ban, that the ban violates their property and due process rights, and that the ban violates their First Amendment rights. [Read article here.]
* Oklahoma Enforces Restrictions on Water Use. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board recently approved an order limiting the amount of groundwater that may be withdrawn from the Arbuckle-Simpson Groundwater Basin, located in south-central Oklahoma. The Board reduced the maximum annual groundwater withdraw from 2 feet per acre to .2 feet per acre of land per year. [Read ruling here.] Opponents of this limitation have appealed the Board’s decision to Oklahoma County District Court. [Read article here.]
* Wyoming Law Requires Groundwater Testing Near Oil Drilling Sites. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved a new ruel on Tuesday that will require oil and gas companies to test nearby water before and after drilling for minerals. [Read rule here.] Under this rule, beginning March 1, 2014, industry operators will be required to test water quality once before drilling begins, again 36-48 months after drilling, and a third time 24 months after that. If the tests show an increase in any of the substances required to be tested for, the operators are required to notify both state officials as well as landowners in the area. The water required to be tested is that located within one-half mile of wellheads. [Read article here.]
* Colorado Cantaloupe Farmers Reach Plea Deal, Sue Auditor. This blog previously discussed the criminal charged filed against the Jensen brothers after a listeria outbreak was traced to their Colorado cantaloupe farm. The brothers have reached a plea deal in their respective criminal cases, which charged them with 6 counts of misdemeanor introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. Additionally, the brothers are now filing suit against Primus Labs, the company who hired an auditor to inspect the farm. The Jensen brothers allege that the auditor gave them bad advice. The food safety audit scored Jensen Farms at 96/100 points. The listeria outbreak, which killed 33 and injured over 100, began within weeks of the audit. The complaint brings claims for negligence, breach of contract, negligent hiring, negligent misrepresentation, and unfair and deceptive trade practices. [Read article here.] Both Primus and the Jensen brothers also face numerous civil suits brought on behalf of victims of the outbreak.