August 29, 2014 Weekly Round Up

I spent last week running all over the state for presentations once again.  On Monday I was in Amarillo to discuss managing oil and gas contracts for farms and ranches, Tuesday found me in Georgetown discussing water law, Thursday I headed to San Antonio to discuss current hot topics in Agricultural Law with the South Texas Farm and Ranch Club, and finally on Friday I was in McKinney discussing drafting hunting leases at the North Texas Wildlife Management Program.  Thanks to the organizers of each event for the invitation to speak, especially Austin Voyles, Fred Hall, Roger Bippert, and Rick Maxwell.  Welcome to the new readers from these presentations!

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

* Oil Companies Turn to Recycled Water for Fracking.  Two articles outlined oil and gas companies’ attempts to turn to recycled water for fracking operations.  First, the Dallas News reported that for every barrel of oil produced, more than a barrel of water is produced with it.  This water is frequently disposed of beneath the ground, but companies are beginning to investigate recycling and reusing this water in the fracking process.  It is estimated that in the Permian and the Eagle Ford, only about 10-20% of water used in oil and gas production is recycled, but that number is expected to more than double in the next 10 years.  [Read article here.]  One example of this is Pioneer Natural Resources , an oil and gas company currently working on a pipeline project that would allow the company to purchase treated effluent water from the City of Odessa for use in fracking operations.  The company believes this project will decrease their water costs–currently running $.50  to $1.50 per 42 gallon barrel in the Permian Basin–to approximately $.27 a barrel.  The water is not suitable for drinking and is currently treated and dumped into the Monahans Draw.  The City will also receive economic benefit from this partnership, predicting that it could gain up to $100 million in new revenue over the next 10 years, money that could be used to seek alternative drinking water sources.  [Read article here.]

* Texas Sees Increased Groundwater Litigation.  This article discusses the uptick of groundwater litigation across the state of Texas.  As the article explains, it is well settled that Texas groundwater is owned by the owner of the overlying land and governed by the rule of capture.  However, this ownership right is subject to regulation by local Groundwater Conservation Districts and the scope of proper regulations is often where the litigation comes in.  [Read article here.]

* High Plains Underground Water Conservation District Passes New Rules, Effective January 2015.  The High Plains Underground Water Conservation District has passed new rules that require groundwater users to measure and limit the amount of water pumped within the HPUWCD’s jurisdiction, which includes all or part of Deaf Smith, Potter, Randall, Armstrong, Parmer, Castro, Swisher, Bailey, Lamb, Hale, Floyd, Cochran, Hockley, Lubbock, Crosby, and Lynn counties.  Producers may measure production with meters or other approved techniques set forth in the revised rules and must file annual reports containing these measurements.  Additionally, landowners are not permitted to pump more than1.5 acre feet of water per year for each acre of water right owned.  [Read article here and District Rules here.]

* GMO Labeling Law Will Be on Colorado and Oregon Ballots.  Colorado and Oregon voters will consider a proposition on their respective November ballots that would require labeling of any foods containing genetically modified organisms in their ingredients.  [Read articles here and here.]  Proponents of these bills argue that consumers have the right to know what is in their food, while opponents claim that GMOs are safe and the labeling requirements would confuse consumers.  A Vermont GMO labeling bill is currently facing legal challenges.  Bills have also been passed in Maine and Connecticut, but go into effect only if other neighboring states pass similar laws.

* Hawaii Judge Strikes Pesticide Disclosure and GMO Reporting Law.  A federal district judge has stricken Kauai’s Ordinance 960, which required disclosure of the use of certain pesticides, imposed a buffer zone if certain pesticides were to be used, and  required farmers to make annual public disclosures if growing genetically modified crops.  Specifically, the court found that the state statutory provisions regarding pesticide use pre-empted the local law.  The judge reasoned that because the state Department of Agriculture was granted the power to develop and enforce pesticide laws and local and county governments were not included in the framework of laws surrounding pesticide use, it was the legislature’s intent that the state have exclusive authority over this issue.  [Read full opinion here.]

* In Defense of County Fairs.  Lastly, as it is fair season in many areas across the country, I wanted to share an article by Baxter Black explaining the value of county fairs.  [Read article here.]  Having been involved in 4-H and FFA myself, many of my best childhood memories involve county fairs or other stock shows.  I cannot speak highly enough about the benefits of these youth programs and the livestock showing projects in particular.  As Baxter Black says, “The list of ‘essential professions is a short one.  That’s the reality of real life.  Farm kids hold our future in their hands.  They are in training to feed the world.  And fair board members and county agents get it.”  Thank you to all you fair board members, show parents, ag teachers, and 4-H agents for all of your hard work at the fairs!

My own county fair experience in 2000.

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