April 18, 2014 Weekly Round Up

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

This week I attended the 2014 Texas Water Conference in Dallas.  Amber Miller, an attorney from Lubbock, and I spoke to a large group of folks on an important Texas water issue:  Where do water wells drilled for use in the fracking process fit under the Texas exempt well statute.  I’ll have a blog post up explaining this issue and why it is important for Texans in the near future.  For those of you joining the blog from the Texas Water Conference, welcome!

Here are a few of the major stories making the news this week.

*  Congress to Consider GM-Labeling Bill.  A house bill, the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” has been introduced that would place labeling requirements for foods made with genetically modified crops under the scope of federal regulation from the FDA.  The FDA would have the sole authority to order labeling of GMO ingredients that could pose a health, safety, or nutrition concern.  Currently, no such federal regulations exist and labeling requirements are left up to individual states and could pose a problem for farmers and agribusinesses trying to comply with different rules in states across the country.  The bill has found support in numerous agricultural groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation,  American Soybean Association, the National Corn Growers Association, and the National Association of Wheat Growers.  [Read article here.]

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*NPR Story Focuses on Oil Boom Impact on Cotulla, TX.    This NPR report focuses on the changes in Cotlulla since the oil boom in the Eagle Ford began in 2008.  As the story explains, the oil boom has revitalized the town’s economy, which the city manger described as “dying on the vine.”  In 2008, Cotulla’s property tax base was $50 million.  In 2013, it was $200 million.  These additional revenues, according to the city manager, will be used to improve infrastructure for water, gas, and transportation, all of which have been strained due to the oil activity in the area.  The article also discusses the changes for residents, some of whom have hit the jackpot when oil production began on their lands, and others who are concerned about the increase in crime and environmental concerns in the area. [Read story here or listen to report here.]

* Concern Over Earthquakes Prompts Change to Ohio Oil and Gas Permitting Process.  The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has announced that geologists believe small earthquakes in the state may have been caused by fracking.  In the same statement, the Department announced stricter rules for oil and gas exploration in areas of seismic concern.  The new regulations require oil and gas companies to install seismic monitors if drilling within three miles of a known fault or in an area that has recently experienced earthquakes.  If the seismic monitors detect a seismic event, production activities would halt as the cause was investigated.  [Read articles here and here.]

*Ten Estate Planning Tips.  Texas Tech University Law Professor Gerry Beyer posted an article on his blog this week outlining ten estate planning tips that should apply to every estate plan.  [Read blog post here.]

* North Carolina Court of Appeals Affirms Dismissal of State Fair Petting Zoo Case.  A case involving claims of illnesses caused by a petting zoo at the North Carolina State Fair has been dismissed by the North Carolina Court of Appeals.  Plaintiffs alleged that their children contracted e coli at the state fair petting zoo in 2014 and filed suit against the North Carolina Department of Ag.  The court focued extensively on the precautions taken by the fair including hiring veterinarians to ensure safety, having hand washing stations near the zoo, placing additional signage to encourage hand washing, and ensuring prompt cleaning of the pens.  This case is important for anyone involved in fairs or petting zoos and illustrates the importance of detailed health and safety plan.  [Read opinion here.]

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