It’s been busy in the ag law world. Here are a few of the stories and articles in the headlines over the last week.
* Two Groundwater District Approaches, One Aquifer. Neena Satija with the Texas Tribune wrote a great article discussing a controversy between Groundwater Conservation Districts managing the Corrizo-Wilcox aquifer in Central Texas. The Post Oak Savannah GCD and the Lost Pines GCD both manage groundwater for counties overlaying the same aquifer. Both, however, take different approaches to the permitting process. These differing approaches have allowed water marketers to obtain permits to pump millions of gallons of water from the Post Oak Savannah District, while marketers have been unable to obtain such rights from the Lost Pines GCD. This issue illustrates one of the difficulties with local groundwater control and inconsistent laws between various GCDs and likely highlights controversies that will continue to appear across the state. [Read article here.]
* 10 Legal Tips for New Parents. My friend, and Texas Fightin’ Aggie alum, Cari Rincker published a blog post offering legal tips for new parents. She’s got some great advice here and if you are expecting or have a young one, it is worth the read! [Read post here.]
* House Passes Rule Preventing EPA’s Revised “Waters of the United States Definition. The United States House of Representatives passed a bill aimed at preventing the EPA’s proposed rule defining “waters of the United States” pursuant to the Clean Water Act. The “Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014” passed by a vote of 262-152. [Review bill text here.] The bill would prohibit the EPA from expanding the scope of the Clean Water Act and would require federal and state cooperation to develop a regulatory proposal to define the scope of the Act. It is considered unlikely that the bill will pass the Senate and the White House has indicated it will veto the bill if it were to reach the President’s desk. [Read article here.]
* New Mexico Ranchers Sue Feds Over Mouse Protections. On Monday, several New Mexico ranchers and New Mexico agriculture groups files suit in the federal court claiming that the United States Forest Service wrongfully prevented livestock from watering in certain areas in order to protect the New Mexico jumping mouse, a species recently listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. [View Complaint here.] Specifically, the United States Forest Service has closed off areas that it has deemed an “occupied habitat” for the mouse and, in doing so, prevents cattle from reaching water on federal land leased to ranchers for grazing purposes. This decision is challenged by the ranchers who claim such actions are improper as the Forest Service relied upon flawed data to determine that cattle grazing harms the jumping mouse and because no formal designation of “critical habitat” has been made, as required by the Endangered Species Act. [Read article here.]
* California Passes New Groundwater Law. The California Legislature has passed a bill that will overhaul the groundwater law in the state. The law is similar in concept that that of Texas and will still recognize private ownership, but will vest control over groundwater in local groundwater agencies that will make plans and pass rules to manage withdrawals. The law is now on its way to the governor’s desk for approval. [Read article here.] Relatedly, an interesting article discussing the impact the new law could have on California agriculture and the wine industry in particular was also published this week. [Read article here.]