Agriculture and landowner groups recently heralded a Texas Supreme Court ruling favoring a South Plains ranch as a major win for private property rights, but some lawyers and conservationists are painting the decision as more of a win for developers and water marketers.
The unanimous ruling, issued last Friday, expanded a 45-year-old tenet of oil and gas law that enables “surface” landowners who don’t own the minerals beneath their property to force drillers to accommodate their existing use of the land. The 18-page ruling said the so-called “accommodation doctrine” — established by a 1971 state Supreme Court ruling — also should apply in cases in which landowners don’t own the groundwater under their property.
That means surface landowners now have a specific legal doctrine on which to challenge plans to pump water from below their property. Groups like the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association say it’s a major victory for landowners, providing them with a new legal tool. Read more from the Texas Tribune