April 4, 2014 Weekly Round Up

*This article is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.*

This week I have been making the rounds from Indianapolis, Indiana to Athens, Texas!  In Indianapolis, Paul Goeringer (University of Maryland Extension) and I presented at the Women in Agriculture Educators Conference on legal risk management, where I specifically focused on water law education in Texas.  Additionally, I presented at the Cattleman’s Cow-Calf Clinic in Athens, Texas.  Henderson County Extension Agent Rick Hirsch and his cattle committee did a great job of planning this clinic and I enjoyed the chance to speak with producers about grazing and farm leases.  Hello and welcome to the new followers from both of these events!

Women in Agriculture Educators Conference, Indianapolis, IN

Here are a few ag law stories in the news this week.

* The United States Supreme Court Allows United States to Intervene in Texas v. New Mexico Suit.  As this prior post explained, the Solicitor General filed a motion to intervene as a party to the Texas v. New Mexico lawsuit.  This week, the Supreme Court granted this motion.  The United States is now a party to the suit, and essentially sides with Texas on this issue.  [Read article here.]

*EPA Proposes Rule to Define Scope of Clean Water Act.  A proposed rule put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has generated controversy across the country. [Read proposed rule here.] The Clean Water Act applies to “navigable waters of the United States” and that is the phrase at the center of this proposed rule.  The EPA claims that it merely seeks to better define the scope of water subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act by explaining that wetlands and intermittent streams that often dry up during part of the year are included in the definition.  Opponents argue that this rule is an attempt by the EPA to greatly increase its jurisdiction thereby making federal law applicable to additional bodies of water.  The Texas Farm Bureau explains its concern that the proposed rule could require federal permits before doing various activities on private property.  The EPA argues that an exemption exists, however, for routine agricultural practices, meaning that no federal permit will be required for these activities.  Before the rule will go into effect, the EPA will hold a 90-day comment period seeing public input.  [Read articles here and here and here.]

*Texas Judge Finds Denbury Green Has Eminent Domain Power.  A Texas state court judge has ruled that a CO2 pipeline owned by Denbury Green qualifies as a common carrier pipeline and, therefore, Denbury had the right to use eminent domain to acquire land for the line.  This case pitting a landowner against Denbury Green has already been to the Texas Supreme Court once, where the court found that a private landowner could challenge the common carrier status and eminent domain power of a pipeline company.  Because the lower court did not permit the landowner to do so, the case was reversed and remanded back to the trial court.  This week’s decision was the court’s reconsideration of the landowner’s argument.   The landowner’s attorney has stated that his client intends to appeal the decision.  [Read article here.]

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