April 6, 2015 Weekly Round Up

Because of the Corpus Christi Court of Appeals opinion last week in TCEQ v. Texas Farm Bureau, the weekly round up blog for last Friday got pushed to today.

Last weekend, I attended my first Texas & Southwest Cattle Raiser’s Conference in Ft. Worth.  I was honored to give three presentations on grazing leases and pipeline easements and had an absolute blast!  To those of you joining from the Convention, welcome!

cattle raisers

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

* Texas Supreme Court Hears Chesapeake v. Hyder Oral Argument.  Last week, the Texas Supreme Court heard argument in a case dealing with allegations that Chesapeake underpaid overriding royalty owners by improperly charging them “post production charges” despite a contract provision stating their payments should be “cost free.”  As you recall from this prior blog post, the Court of Appeals sided with the overriding royalty owners.  During oral argument, which may be heard online here, the court seemed to focus on the “cost free” language included in the parties’ agreement.  The Chesapeake attorney argued that under Texas law, overriding royalty owners were subject to production costs unless this cost free language was included and, therefore, the language referred only to the production costs, allowing Chesapeake to deduct post production costs.  Conversely, the royalty owners’ attorney argued that under Texas law, overriding royalty owners are automatically free from sharing in production costs, meaning that the “cost free” language could only be referring to post production costs that could not be charged.  We will now await the Court’s decision in a case that could have major impacts on Texas oil and gas law.  [Read article here.]
* New Mexico Legislature Passes Bill Restricting Access to Waterways on Private Land.  As you may remember from this post, New Mexico’s Attorney General issued an opinion that a private landowner cannot prevent the public from fishing in a public stream flowing across private property so long as the public did not trespass on the private land to access the stream.  You may also remember from this blog that the law in Texas is somewhat similar, in that it allows the public to use a navigable stream crossing private land.  The New Mexico Legislature recently passed a bill that would make it illegal for the public to enter a non-navigable public stream crossing private land without written permission from the private landowner.  The bill does not define navigability.  [Read full bill text here.]  The bill is currently on the desk of Governor Martinez, who has offered no indication of whether she will sign or veto.  If the bill is signed, it is expected litigation will follow.  [Read article here.]
*Federal Fracking Regulation Challenged.  Recently the US Department of the Interior passed regulations for the use of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking” or “fracing”) on federal and.  Within minutes, the regulations faced a legal challenge by the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance.  The lawsuit claims that the rules, which would apply to oil and gas production on any federal owned land, are arbitrary and unnecessary.  [Read article here.]
* Mora County Rescinds Oil and Gas Production Ban.  Earlier this month, a New Mexico federal judge found the Mora County ordinance prohibiting oil and gas production in the county illegal, as explained in this blog post.  Last Friday, the Mora County Commission voted unanimously to rescind the ordinance, which it passed in 2013.  It remains to be seen if the County will be on the hook for the legal fees incurred by those who challenged the ban, and eventually succeeded, in court.  [Read article here.]
 * Braun and Gresham Hosting Free Legal Webinars.  The Austin-based law firm of Braun & Gresham will be hosting a series of Spring webinars that are free to the public on a variety of important legal issues including water law, estate planning, property taxes, pipeline and transmission line easements, risk management, succession planning with rural land, and more.  These folks are great attorneys and their webinars are always excellent!  To see the full list of topics and dates, click here.

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