July 28, 2017 Weekly Round Up

It’s the last Friday in July!  I hope everyone is staying cool during this summer heat.  Last week, I did a presentation via distance technology to the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association meeting in Kerrville.  Welcome to those of you joining who attended the livestock guardian dog session!

Here are a few ag law stories in the news.  As you will see, two of these items are frequent fliers on the Weekly Round Up!

*USCIS issues new form I-9, mandatory September 18.  The US Customs and Immigration Service has just released a newly revised Form I-9.  There are only minor changes to the form itself, but compliance required use of the most recent form by the deadline, which in this instance is September 18.  In order to ensure use of the most recent form, employers should download a new form each time a new employee is hired via the USCIS website.  [Read article here.]

* Denbury case is back before the Texas Supreme Court a third time.  You are not having deja vu, the Denbury Green Pipeline v. Texas Rice Land Partners has made its way to the Texas Supreme Court yet again.  The case, filed 10 years ago, challenged the right of the Denbury Green Pipeline company to use eminent domain to place a CO2 pipeline across the plaintiffs’ property.  Initially, the Texas Supreme Court held that the landowner could challenge common carrier status of a pipeline company and that a private company must show a “reasonably probability” that it will be a common carrier.  After going back to the trial and appellate level again, the case returned to the Supreme Court where, earlier this year, a decision was issued holding that by offering evidence of post-construction contracts and pre-building intent was sufficient to meet the “reasonable probability” burden, meaning that the pipeline was a common carrier with eminent domain status.  [Read blog post on that decision here.]  Now, the case has landed back at the Texas Supreme Court, this time regarding whether Denbury may access its pipeline even though Texas Rice Partners have been enjoined from withdrawing the condemnation award deposited with the Court years ago.  The trial court sided with the landowners and the appellate court held it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.  The landowners filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus before the Texas Supreme Court.  [Read Petition here.]

* Settlement reached in Point Reyes grazing dispute.  Last year, we discussed a case pending in California where environmental groups claimed that cattle grazing on the Point Reyes National Seashore was causing erosion, pollution, and harm to endangered species.  The leases were held by private families and had been in place for generations.  [Read prior post here.]  Under the terms of the settlement as reported to the media, the National Park Serivce may extend grazing leases with ranchers for 5 years (much shorter than the decade-long leases frequently granted), during which time park managers will study the environmental impacts of ranching on the park.  [Read article here.]

Photo of Point Reyes by Austin Schmid

* Hundreds of protest letters filed in New Mexico over Augustin Plains Ranch water request.  Again, it’s not deja vu, we are discussing the Augustin Plains Ranch petition before the NM State Engineer’s Office again.  You may recall back in 2010, the Augustin Plains Ranch sought to obtain a water right to produce water in rural Catron County, NM and then pump it via pipeline to larger cities in north central New Mexico.  That petition was denied in 2014 after the State Engineer found it not specific enough to comply with requirements to obtain a water right.  So, Augustin Plains Ranch took another stab at it and revised its petition with additional detail and re-filed in 2016.  In June, the deadline for protest letters occurred, and between 300 and 400 protests were received.  The State Engineer will review the protest letters and it is likely that a public hearing bill occur which, if the prior hearing for the 2010 application is any indication, will be attended by many and hotly contested.  Both the application and protest letters may be found on the NM Office of the State Engineer’s website.

*Another “ag gag” appeal likely forthcoming.  It appears that there will likely be another “ag gag” case on appeal at the federal appellate court level, as attorneys for the plaintiffs are “relatively sure” that the Utah Attorney General will appeal the trial court decision that the Utah statute violates the First Amendment to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.  If that appeal is filed, it will join two other cases on the same type of law.  Before the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, an appeal from a trial court order holding the Idaho “ag gag” statute unconstitutional is pending and a decision dismissing a challenge to the North Carolina Property Protection Act for lack of standing has been appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  [Read article here.]

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