February 13, 2015 Weekly Round Up

We’ve made it to the end of another week!  Here are some ag law stories making news.

* Texas Supreme Court Could Hear Groundwater Case.  You may recall from this prior blog the Coyote Lake Ranch v. City of Lubbock lawsuit.  The Ranch owns the surface, but all groundwater rights were severed and sold to Lubbock by prior owners in the 1960’s.  As part of the contract for the water rights, Lubbock obtained the right to enter the land and drill water wells.  The Ranch is concerned that by doing this, the surface of the ranch will be damaged and they will not be compensated.  In order to prevent this, the Ranch claims that the accommodation doctrine–used to this point only in oil and gas law–should apply to groundwater.  The accommodation doctrine requires, if certain stringent requirements are met, the party seeking to produce oil and gas to accommodate existing surface uses.  Read a detailed explanation here.  The trial court sided with the ranch and agreed the doctrine should apply, but the Amarillo Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the doctrine should apply only when the mineral estate is involved.  The Ranch appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, which requested briefing on the merits at the end of January.  I was recently interviewed on this case by a local television station.  [Watch interview here.]

*House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock Interim Report.  Last month, the Texas House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock issued their interim report on issues of potential legislation related to agriculture.  The report looks at a number of interesting issues, including border wait times for agricultural imports, feral hogs, the Right to Farm Act, and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board projects.  [Read report here.]


* Tensions Running High in Hays County Regarding Proposed Pipeline Project.  As you read about previously, a proposed water pipeline that would pump water from Hays County to Buda, an Austin suburb, has tensions running high.  Importantly, there is no Groundwater Conservation District jurisdiction in Hays County, meaning that there are essentially no rules on groundwater pumping in the area.  Residents are concerned that the proposed project will dry up their wells.  Hundreds of people attended a county meeting on this topic last week, where many exchanged harsh words.  [Read article here.]

*  Environmental Groups Sue EPA Over Livestock Air Quality Standards.  Several environmental and animal rights groups have filed suit against the EPA, alleging that the agency is failing to adequately address air quality issues related to large livestock operations.  The plaintiffs filed petitions in 2009 and 2011 seeking to have large livestock operations categorized as sources of pollution under the Clean Air Act.  The groups claim that manure generate air pollutants causing illness.  [Read article here.]

*  Ensure Your Beneficiary Designations Are Correct.  Oftentimes, people forget to review their beneficiary designations, which will control how certain assets are allocated at death.  In addition to ensuring that you update the persons designated, it is also important to confirm the designation is completed and signed, ensure the percentages add up to 100%, and understand that a will will not override a beneficiary designation.  [Read article here.]

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