December 9, 2014 Weekly Round Up

Because I did not get the Weekly Round Up post up last Friday, I figured better late than never, so here is the first-ever Tuesday weekly round up of ag law stories in the news.

* LCRA Seeks Approval to Cut Off Downstream Irrigation Releases for Fourth Year in a Row.  In a story that is unfortunately becoming all to common, the Lower Colorado River Authority voted 11-2 to seek permission from the TCEQ to curtail downstream releases from the Highland Lakes.  The curtailment would not just impact rice farmers, but would also be detrimental to downstream businesses, tourism, and animal species.  In addition to this request, the LCRA will continue limits on outdoor watering by customers by one day per week.  [Read article here.]

rice field

*Texas Railroad Commission Passes Pipeline Permitting Process Rules.  As you may recall from prior blog posts, earlier this year the Texas Railroad Commission proposed a rule modifying the pipeline application process in the state.  After reviewing the extensive public comment on the proposed rule modifying the application process for pipeline applications, the Teas Railroad Commission has issued the final rules.  The rules–largely similar to those previously proposed–will require pipeline permit applicants to fine an application to the RRC containing the following documentation:  (1) contact information for a person who can answer inquiries about construction, operation or maintenance; (2) classification of the pipeline as a common carrier, gas utility, or a private line; (3) a sworn statement attesting to the operator’s factual basis to support its classification, including, if applicable, an attestation to the knowledge of eminent domain law at the Texas Landowner Bill of Rights; and (4) documentation or the classification being sought.  Additionally, like the previously proposed rule, such permits will be renewable annually.  The rule will become effective March 1.  To review the RRC’s analysis and discussion of comments received about the proposed rule and to see the final rule, click here.  [Read articles here.]

* Update on Denton Fracking Ban Litigation.  The City of Denton has filed an answer to the Complaint filed by the Texas Oil and Gas Association’s lawsuit claiming the ban violates state law.  Specifically, TXOGA argues that the ban is pre-empted by state law regulating oil and gas production and also violates private property rights of mineral owners in Denton.  Denton argues that TXOGA has pointed to no specific state regulations addressing this issue or making the ban unconstitutional.  Further, Denton argues that although the state may regulate oil and gas production, Denton has the right to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens through this type of legislation.  [Read article here.]  Additionally, proponents of the ban are seeking to intervene in the lawsuits.  The Denton Drilling Awareness Group and Earthworks seek to intervene to assert the rights of Denton Citizens.  [Read article here.]

* Elephant Butte Irrigation District Seeks to Intervene in Texas v. New Mexico.  The Elephant Butte Irrigation District finds itself in the middle of a water battle between Texas and New Mexico and now seeks to intervene as a party in the suit so that its interests are adequately represented.  As you recall from this prior blog, New Mexico is required to deliver water to Texas at the Elephant Butte Reservoir, some 100 miles north of the Texas/New Mexico border.  Texas filed suit claiming that withdrawals and groundwater wells drilled along that 100 mile stretch of river violates the purpose of the treaty.  Elephant Butte Irrigation District is in a precarious situation–it is located in New Mexico, but is “compact Texas” under the treaty.  Further, although it receives the “compact Texas” water, its members include owners of the water wells being challenged.  In light of this, the District does not believe that Texas or New Mexico will adequately represent its interests.  To view the brief, click here.

* Estate Planning Advice for Millennials.  InvestmentNews offers advice for young professionals in considering their estate plan.  It is never too early to look at these suggestions!  Specifically, the author suggests that millennials do the following:  (1) know your beneficiary designations; (2) talk about life insurance; (3) create a health care proxy and power of attorney; (4) draft a will; and (5) discuss estate tax issues.  These are the same steps I suggest during my own estate planning presentations and are a great start for anyone needing to prepare an estate plan.  [Read article here.]

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