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Fri Feb 24, 2012, 01:58 PM

Supreme Court delivers major ruling on water regulation

Austin Legal blog AAS 2/24/12

Supreme Court delivers major ruling on water regulation

In a ruling likely to have a wide impact on the regulation of water use in Texas, the state Supreme Court today ruled that landowners have an ownership interest in water beneath their land and may be compensated if regulations limit their access to it.

The legal dispute involves a ranch owner who sued when the Edwards Aquifer Authority issued a permit that limited the amount of underground water that could be used.

The authority had argued that if landowners can be compensated for limiting access to their water, the result would be a disaster, creating an unknown number of legal disputes and a financial burden that could make regulating water impossible.

(snip)

Ken Kramer, director of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter, said the decision could have disastrous impact on the state economy and environment.

“The court has done a huge disservice to everyone who has been working for proper management of the groundwater resources needed for our state’s people and our environment,” Kramer said.


Well it's each person for themselves once again. I'm sure the water corporations that buy/rent the Texas Supreme Court judges are happy. They will just suck all the water from underneath faster than anyone else can. And then continue to sell it to everyone else at exorbitant prices. Water is the new black gold in Texas.

What a mess.

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Response to sonias (Original post)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 02:08 PM

1. What the court has done is to kill Texas.

It may not happen next year, or even next decade, but they killed it.

Texas had a 50 year drought two years ago, and a 100 yr drought last year. Huge parts of the state spontaneously combusted. Rivers, lakes, and surface water disappeared. Aquifers, ones that used to supply industry and residents, faded away. Without controlled use and planning, there will be no control over the usage that absolutely must be controlled in order to survive. Some greedy fracking company and some greedy huge landowners will drill and pump, drill and pump, and bleed that state dry. Without water, towns and villages will literally dry off and die, leaving the residents in their vehicles, searching for new homes where it might rain more often than once a decade.

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Response to ChairmanAgnostic (Reply #1)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 03:05 PM

4. Your right it's more like a death sentence

It's really concerning in view of the most recent droughts. We should have some management/regulation of a very scarce resource. Instead the Texas Supremes have sentenced Texas to a slow death by a thousand cuts.

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Response to sonias (Original post)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 02:12 PM

2. This ruling is total garbage.

This would make it impossible to have any kind of water regulations because the state can't compensate every property owner in the state every time a law is passed.

Since people are so defensive of their property rights, then I hope they don't shit all over their neighbors' property and also our common public property.

If landowners do something underneath their own property that contaminates the water for their neighbors or others in the community, those landowners ought to be held financially liable. But the thing is, they may do some damage that can never be undone. So there really is no way to hold anybody liable for that kind of polluting.

Bad move Texas Supreme Court.

===
(Edited to make it more polite, removed some profanity. Sorry didn't realize this was in the Texas group, it was just listed under the latest threads.)

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Response to limpyhobbler (Reply #2)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 03:07 PM

5. We have wild, wild west style courts in Texas

The entire Texas Supreme Court is 100% republican and it shows.

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Response to sonias (Original post)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 02:49 PM

3. Not directly on topic since it involves surface water rights, but this might be of interest.

A few years ago an issue developed when a private landowner constructed a dam along a tributary to Lake Corpus Christi that resulted in a federal court ruling. The first link provides background information about the situation and the fact that in torrential rains it could possibly cause flooding on Interstate 37. The second link regards the fines levied by Live Oak county. The third link regards the federal court ruling.

http://www.mysoutex.com/view/full_story/3087260/article-Dammed-creek-upsets-neighbors--fishermen--Live-Oak-County-officials

http://mysoutex.com/view/full_story/7938045/article-Dam-deal--County-fines-ranchers--200-per-day?

http://www.caller.com/news/2011/jun/09/federal-judge-orders-live-oak-residents-to-dam/

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Response to TexasTowelie (Reply #3)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 03:14 PM

7. Precisely the kind of crazy litigation that is going to clog up the courts

Every land owner is going to be their own "dam". And the only way other land owners can manage their resources is to act as crazy as their neighbors. The FEDs will need to step in periodically just like in this story.

Nuts, plain nuts.

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Response to sonias (Original post)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 03:09 PM

6. Batshit crazy. Can't possibly hold up.

 

Simply apply it to fracking - everyone gets compensated for their water, right.

End of ruling.

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Response to saras (Reply #6)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 03:19 PM

8. Who would claim water rights there?

I mean you still have to prove it as a landowner. Lots of suits going on now from landowners who claim their wells have gone dry or been contaminated. None of them have won as of yet. Plus they're out for the legal fees to keep the cases going.

You know there will probably be some landowner who already is leasing their property to the fracking gas industry and that's all it takes. With that one person's permission to take the underground water the industry won't be fazed They have deep pockets of money.

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Response to sonias (Reply #8)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 03:24 PM

10. According to the ruling, any single property owner could stop it

 

But your understand of what really happens in Texas, as opposed to what the law says, is probably better than mine.

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Response to sonias (Original post)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 03:20 PM

9. Western water law has a different historical background than that in the east

and it has been recognized by the courts over the years.

Be interesting too see how this decision fares.

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Response to ProgressiveProfessor (Reply #9)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 03:31 PM

11. Yes indeed it has

Texas has been operating under "Rule of Capture" which was already starting to be a problem. So now not only can landowners pump out as much as they can, they can sue and ask compensation from any water regulation authority.

From the Texas Water Matters website:
Texas’ guiding principle for groundwater management is the Rule of Capture. This rule, which was adopted in 1904, gives each landowner the right to capture an unlimited amount of groundwater by tapping into the underlying aquifer. The landowner is not liable for injury to another adjacent landowner caused by excessive or harmful pumping, other than from subsidence, as long as the effect was not intentional. By relying on this rule, our historical approach has been to exercise little control of groundwater pumping.

The rule of capture may have been adequate when neighboring landowners were withdrawing similar and limited amounts of water. However, with the threat of largescale withdrawals of groundwater for export the state needs an effective means of protecting water supplies for rural communities, farming and ranching operations, and the environment itself. Potential consequences of not taking action include the lowering of local groundwater levels, reductions in essential baseflow to rivers and streams, and diminished springflows. The environmental and economic consequences for rural and agricultural communities will be grave if this issue is not addressed.


It will be interesting to see how municipalities, MUDS and cities who are already running out of drinking water proceed.

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Response to sonias (Original post)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 06:23 PM

12. My understanding is that the federal government

Is spending millions on water research for the shortages expected over the next fifty years in the SE US. SCOT just made Texas' water problems that much worse.

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Response to sonias (Original post)

Sat Feb 25, 2012, 12:30 PM

13. Texas Supreme Court Rules For Landowners in Water Case

Texas Tribune 2/24/12
Texas Supreme Court Rules For Landowners in Water Case

In a case with potentially vast implications for groundwater rules in Texas, the state supreme court has unanimously ruled in favor of two farmers in the San Antonio area who challenged the local aquifer authority's sharp restrictions on their use of a water well on their land.

The much-anticipated ruling is "going to make life much more complicated for groundwater districts," said Gregory Ellis, an attorney and the former general manager of the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA).

Texans wanting to put a well on their land generally must go to their local groundwater conservation district for permission to withdraw a certain amount of water, as part of an effort to keep aquifers healthy.

(snip)
But environmental groups are concerned. The ruling "injects huge uncertainty" into a recovery program in the Edwards Aquifer Area, aimed at maintaining certain levels of spring flows and helping endangered species, said Myron Hess of the National Wildlife Federation.

Tom Mason, of the Austin law firm Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, said the ruling was likely to lead to more litigation.

"Landowners with wells may be encouraged by this and want to challenge groundwater district regulations, particularly in the Edwards Aquifer Authority," he said. Meanwhile, as the courts consider the implications of the ruling, groundwater districts "may be a little less inclined to regulate as vigorously as before," Mason said.



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Response to sonias (Original post)

Tue Feb 28, 2012, 12:12 AM

14. Groundwater ruling potentially unleashes geyser of future cases

AAS Editorial 2/27/12
Groundwater ruling potentially unleashes geyser of future cases

(snip)
How much of the water underneath their land do landowners own? When landowners pump water from an aquifer, they are drawing water from the entire aquifer, not just from the part that lies immediately beneath their land.

A couple of million Central Texans rely on the Edwards Aquifer. Where do an individual's property rights end and those 2 million others' rights begin?

If the right applies to individuals, then we assume it also applies to industry. Power plants, refineries and any other large industrial user of water struggling to access surface water supplies — Texas law treats surface water differently from groundwater, regulating it more tightly — could potentially access without limits any groundwater that lies under land it owns.


Corporations are people remember. Especially in Texas where "bidness" is king. How big a hose can they use to suck up all the water they need?

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