Welcome to May! I hope everyone had a great week. Here are some of the ag law stories in the news.
* Suggestions offered in review of Texas Railroad Commission. The Sunset Advisory Committee–a legislative body that reviews agencies–has published its report offering suggestions for changes needed at the Texas Railroad Commission. First off, the committee recommended the agency’s name be changed to the “Texas Energy Resources Commission” to clarify that the agency governs oil, gas, mining and intrastate pipelines, rather than railroads. The committee also suggested changes to enhance enforcement and monitoring to ensure oil and gas producers abide by regulations and changes to the bonding requirements for producers. Further, the agency suggested that natural gas utility rulemaking should be transferred from the RRC to the Public Utility Commission and that the state Legislature should give authority over damage prevention rules for interstate pipelines to the Commission. [Read article here.]
* FERC approves international portion of Trans-Pecos pipeline. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently approved the international portion of the Trans-Pecos pipeline, which will bring natural gas from the Permian Basin to Mexico. Big Bend landowners have been opposed to the pipeline and originally sought FERC jurisidiction over the entire line, but FERC determined it only had jurisdiction of the 1,100 feet of line that crosses under the Mexican border. The remainder of the line is considered intrastate and is governed by the Texas Railroad Commission. [Read article here.]
* Colorado Supreme Court holds local fracking bans invalid. The Colorado Supreme Court struck down fracking bans passed by local municipalities, finding that such bans were pre-empted by state law. Essentially, the Court held that it was the domain of the state, rather than local municipalities, to regulate oil and gas production. [Read article here.] The Texas Legislature, as you may recall from this prior blog post, passed a bill reaching the same conclusion in 2015. A federal district judge in New Mexico also struck down a county’s ban on oil and gas production in that state.
* Environmental groups sue federal government protection for public lands against oil and gas production. Numerous environmental groups have filed suit against the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest service seeking to prevent oil and gas production–fracking, in particular–in the Santa Fe National Forest. Also this week, another coalition of environmental groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency seeking revised regulations for the management of waste water in oil and gas production. [Read article here.]
* Upcoming meeting in east Texas. My friend and fellow attorney Jim Bradbury and I will be speaking in Lufkin, TX on Friday, May 20. The extension program, titled “Land, Water and Wealth: Legal and Regulatory Symposium for East Texas Agriculture is hosted by Texas A&M Agrilife Extension agents in Houston, Angelina, Polk, Tyler, Trinity, Cherokee, and San Augustine Counties and is partially funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. The registration fee is $30 per person and $50 per couple. Lunch will be served (always a plus!) [Read article here.]