November 21, 2014 Weekly Round Up

We made it to Friday!  Tomorrow I will be teaching my last law school class at the Texas A&M School of Law in Ft. Worth.  I have so enjoyed the opportunity to teach this class and was fortunate to have an absolutely outstanding group of students.  To those students visiting the blog, welcome and thanks for a great semester!

Here are some of the ag law stories in the news this week.

* Railroad Commission Finalizes New Disposal Well Safety Rule.  The Texas Railroad Commission has promulgated a new rule in order to reduce seismic activity related to oil and gas disposal wells.  Under the new rule, companies seeking permits for disposal wells are required to provide USGS data regarding seismic activity in a 100 mile area around the proposed well location and must provide monthly reports of injection rates and pressure.  The RRC may modify, suspend, or terminate a permit if scientific data indicates a disposal well is contributing seismic activity.  [Read article here and rule here.]

*Second New Mexico County Imposes Strict Drilling Rules.  San Miguel County voted last week to pass some of the strictest rules for oil and gas production in the country.  The new ordinance ends a moratorium on oil and gas production in the county that has been in place since 2010.  The new rules, however, essentially restrict drilling to a portion of the rural eastern side of the county.  Additionally, production companies will face high application fees, obtain pre0-drilling assessments, and post bonds.  This rule, although less stringent than Mora County’s outright ban on oil and gas production, may still face legal challenge from mineral owners and the oil and gas industry. [Read article here.]

* Monsanto Settles Case Over GM Wheat with Farmers.  In 2013, unapproved GMO wheat was discovered growing in an Oregon field.  Although no GMO wheat has been approved in the US, the discovered wheat matched a strain of experimental wheat tested by Monsanto a decade earlier.   Last week, Monsanto reached a $2.3 million settlement with wheat growers associations and farmers in lawsuits related to this event.  The discovery of the GMO wheat resulted in some export bans for soft white wheat from the US in 2013.  The USDA investigation into this situation was completed in September, finding it to be an isolated incident and there to be no GMO wheat in commerce.  [Read article here.]

wheat field

* Gunnison Sage Grouse Listed as Threatened.  The Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the Gunnison sage grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  The bird, found in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah, was proposed to be listed as “endangered” last year.  Conservation efforts by interested parties convinced the Fish and Wildlife Service that a listing of endangered was not necessary, but they still found that a threatened listing was proper.  Groups on both sides of this issue are unhappy and have threatened lawsuits over the listing.  The State of Colorado has stated it intends to sue the FWS, arguing that the bird should not have been listed at all based upon the conservation efforts and scientific evidence.  On the other hand, environmental groups have threatened to sue because the FWS refused to list the bird as endangered.  [Read article here.]

* Hawaii Judge Issues Injunction Against GMO Ban.  A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction in a lawsuit filed by Monsanto challenging the constitutionality of Maui’s GMO ban.  The injunction prevents the new GMO law passed earlier this month–which prohibits the growing of any GMO crops in Maui County–from taking effect.  The temporary injunction will remain in place until December 5.  [Read article here.]

* United States Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Water Dispute Between Florida and Georgia, Appoints Special Master.  The US Supreme Court has again agreed to weigh in in a water dispute between states.  Like Texas v. New Mexico, the court has agreed to hear Florida v. Georgia and has appointed a special master. In its Complaint, Florida claims that Georgia is withdrawing too much upstream water upstream of the Apalachicola Bay, damaging the state’s vital oyster industry.  Specifically, Florida claims that Georgia diverts too much water from the Chattahoochee River, used in order to provide water for Atlanta.  The case has been referred to Special Master, Ralph I. Lancaster, a Maine attorney, to monitor discovery and make factual findings.  [Read article here.]

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