This week found me in west Texas speaking at county extension meetings in Reagan, Coke, and Upton Counties. Many thanks to county extension agents Chase McPhaul, Morgan Runyan, and Raymond Quigg for the invitations. Welcome to those of you new to the blog from these programs. Here are some of the ag law stories in the news this week.
* US Supreme Court Hears Argument in Hawkes Clean Water Act Case. This week, oral argument was held in an important Clean Water Act case at the United States Supreme Court. As you read in this prior blog post, the key issue in this case is whether a landowner has the right to appeal a jurisdictional determination that a water is a “water of the US” subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction, or whether the landowner must wait until a fine is levied to do so. Robin Bravender wrote a great summary of the argument, and opines that the Supreme Court may be leaning in favor of the landowner. [Read article here.]
* Case Involving California Dairy Farm Finds RCRA Not Applicable to Manure. You may recall from this prior blog post that last year, a Washington federal court found that the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) applied to alleged groundwater pollution caused by manure from a dairy. Although this is not actually a recent development, I recently learned of a 2007 federal court opinion from the Eastern District of California that held the RCRA does not apply to manure from a dairy that allegedly contaminated groundwater. In Coldani v. Hamm, the Court held that manure was not solid waste as it fell under one of the statutory exclusions from the definition of solid waste. Specifically, the court found that manure was an industrial discharge which is point sources subject to Section 402 of the Clean Water Act. The statute excludes this from the definition of “solid waste” and, therefore, RCRA was inapplicable. The Court refused to exercise duplicate jurisdiction under both the CWA and RCRA. This is a good case to be aware of, as environmental groups are likely to continue bringing RCRA suits against agricultural operations as we saw in Washington. [Read order here.]
* Urban sprawl threatens Texas agricultural leases. Southwest Farm Press ran an article last week discussing how urban sprawl is affecting farm leases in Texas. As you might imagine, increased demand for land for homes and development drives up farm land lease prices, negatively impacting Texas producers. [Read article here.]
*Abengoa Plans to Transfer Rights to Vista Ridge Pipeline Project. As I reported a couple of weeks ago, the company awarded the San Antonio Water Systems contract to pump water from rural Milam and Burleson Counties to San Antonio filed for bankruptcy. This week, the company announced it would sell 80% of the contract and all decision-making authority to a Kansas City based company, Garney Construction. The San Antonio Water System will need to approve the transfer. [Read article here.]
* Free Right to Farm Webinar on Monday. One last reminder that on Monday, April 4 at 11:00 CST, Paul Goeringer, Ashley Ellixon and I will be presenting a free webinar on Right to Farm issues. Ashley will be giving an overview of right to farm statutes, I will then discuss recent cases addressing these statutes, and Paul Goeringer will round things out with a discussion of Right to Farm Constitutional Amendments. For more information, click here. To register, click here.