This week I made the drive to Lubbock to speak at the “Seeking Solutions” extension meeting. It was a great program and I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit with producers about agricultural law. To those of you joining the blog from that event, welcome! Here are some ag law stories in the news this week.
* What You Need To Know About Selling Your Oil and Gas Interests. Texas attorney Aimee Hess recently wrote a great blog post discussing the sale of mineral interests. She offers some sound advice to mineral owners if approached by someone seeking to purchase mineral rights. Many times, companies seeking to purchase mineral interests are scams. It is extremely important that mineral rights transactions be handled properly–including a signed sales contract, earnest money placed in escrow, closing at a title company, and payment received before any deed is signed. In addition, she discusses concerns over selling minerals at all and the language that should be included in order to avoid personal liability for the mineral purchaser’s behavior. [Read blog post here.]
* Drone Operator Files Federal Lawsuit After Drone Shot Down. A Kentucky drone operator whose drone was shot down by a landowner over whose property it was flying has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to clarify the rights of drones to use the nation’s skies. [View Complaint here.] The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment and damages after his $1,5000 drone, allegedly flying about 200′ above ground, was shot down by his neighbor. This case raises the extremely important question of whether a drone commits trespass when flying over another’s property and if whether the height of the flight impacts the answer. [View article here.] For those of you interested in this issue, we will be starting a series on Drones & Privacy next week, so stay tuned!
* North Carolina “Ag Gag” Law Challenged in Court. North Carolina now joins Idaho and Utah facing legal challenges to the states’ “ag gag” statutes. This week, PETA and a host of other environmental groups filed suit in federal court against the North Carolina statute, passed last June and effective as of January 1, 2016. [View Complaint here.] Specifically, the suit argues that both the federal and state constitution provisions governing freedom of speech, equal protection, and due process. [View article here.]
* Another Water Pipeline Project Receives Approval in Texas. At the end of December, the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District (covering Bastrop & Lee County in Central Texas), approved a permit that will allow Forestar Real Estate Group to eventually pump 28,500 acre feet of groundwater per year from the Simsboro Aquifer in order to provide water for purchasers in Bastrop, Hays, Lee, Travis and Williamson counties. This approval came as part of my settlement agreement after Forestar filed suit after a prior request to pump 45,000 acre feet per year was denied and only 12,000 AF/year approved by the GCD. As part of the permit approval, Forestar will install 6 monitoring wells and will start out pumping only 12,500 acre feet per year for at least the first 5 years. [View article here.]
* What Happens To Your Student Loans If You Die? Investopedia ran an article discussing the complicated question of what happens to a person’s student loans if he or she passes away. The answer depends on a number of factors, including the type of loan and lending institution. According to the article, if the loan is from a federal agency, the debt will be discharged at death. Where things get tricky, however, is when dealing with private loans. The loan could be discharged, or could be collected in a variety of ways, including from the estate, from the surviving spouse (if community property), or from co-signors. It is important to understand the terms of any student loans and ensure that an estate plan takes into account any obligations that may exist after death. [Read article here.]