August 14, 2015 Weekly Round Up

Last Friday I visited with a group of West Texas landowners at the Permian Basin Oil and Gas Conference.  Thank you all for your great questions and for those of you new to the blog, welcome!  Here are some ag law stories in the news this week.

* EPA To Blame for Catastrophic Spill on Animas River.  One of the biggest national news stories this week, unfortunately, involved a catastrophic spill of contaminated water out of the Gold King Mine into the Animas River.  The spill of over 3 million gallons of contaminated water, caused by EPA workers, has the potential to impact health of the river, animals, and residents for years to come.  States impacted include New Mexico, Colorado, Utah.  There are numerous articles and sources of information on this topic.  This CNN article does a good job of outlining the facts surrounding abandon mines, EPA oversight, what happened, potential impacts, and potential lawsuits to come.   Importantly for folks potentially affected by the disaster, KOB TV ran an important story on the need to carefully read and consider any documents or releases before signing, as doing so could greatly limit your rights and ability to recover monetary damages.  Lastly, there is a concern that groundwater wells near the Animas River could potentially also be impacted.  This article outlines the actions being taken by the New Mexico Environment Department and offers advice for local residents on what actions and precautions should be taken.

*US Supreme Court Will Not Hear Whooping Crane Appeal.  The United States Supreme Court has denied a petition filed by the Aransas Project seeking review of “the whooping crane case.”  [Read article here.] Thus, the appellate court decision will stand.  You may recall that that last July, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the TCEQ could not be held liable for the deaths of 23 whooping cranes in the Aransas Wildlife Preserve under the Endangered Species Act.  To read a full summary of that decision, click here.

*ACLU May Challenge Kansas “Ag Gag” Law.  In the wake of the Idaho “ag gag” statute being stricken (if you missed that blog post, click here), the American Civil Liberties Union has stated it may consider a constitutional challenge to a similar type of law in Kansas.  Many legal scholars have speculated that after the Idaho decision, challenges to laws in other states were likely.  [Read article here.]

*CA Farmers Turn to Waste Water for Irrigation Amidst Drought.  In the midst of California’s record-setting drought, farmers are looking to alternative sources of irrigation water.  One such source is municipal waste water.  For example, water from a waste water treatment facility near Modesto may offer an option for farmers to find an available and cheaper alternative to freshwater.  The facility is upgrading equipment to make water cleaner–not drinking quality–but sufficient for irrigation purposes.  [Read article here.]

Texas A&M Research Photo by Kay Ledbetter

* Last Chance to Nominate the TX Ag Law Blog for ABA’s Top Legal Blog Award!  Nominations for ABA’s “Blawg 100” close this Sunday at midnight.  If you enjoy this blog and haven’t done so yet, please consider nominating us for this recognition by clicking here.

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