TAXAS SUPREME COURT DECISIONS IN WATER LAW APPEALS
FPL Farming Ltd. v. Environmental Processing Systems, L.C.,
No. 09-1010 (Tex. Aug. 26, 2011)(Opinion by Justice Dale Wainwright)(liability re: waste water injection well)
In this case we consider whether a regulatory permit to drill an injection well absolves the holder from civil tort
liability for conduct authorized by the permit. Environmental Processing Systems, L.C. (EPS) obtained permits
from the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (now the Texas Commission on Environmental
Quality) to construct and operate two deep wastewater injection wells on a tract next to land FPL Farming Ltd.
(FPL) owns in Liberty County. FPL sued EPS for, among other things, tort damages for physical trespass based
on alleged subsurface migration of water injected in the permitted well. Specifically, FPL alleged that the injected
wastewater likely migrated onto its property and contaminated its water supply. After the jury failed to find a
trespass, FPL appealed. Among other issues, FPL contended that it was entitled to a directed verdict on a
consent defense, the allocation of the burden of proof in the jury charge was erroneous, and factually sufficient
evidence supported its trespass claim. The court of appeals did not address the merits of the trespass claim or
the jury charge but held FPL could not recover in tort for trespass damages because the wells were authorized by
the permit EPs secured from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The Injection Well Act
provides that holders of wastewater injection well permits issued by the TCEQ are not immune from civil liability
and our previous case law has not held that such permit holders are immune from tort liability. We therefore
reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and remand for consideration of issues related to the trespass claim.
FPL FARMING LTD. v. ENVIRONMENTAL PROCESSING SYSTEMS, L.C.; from Liberty County; 9th district (09-08-
00083-CV, 305 SW3d 739, 10-29-09)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and remands the case to that court.
Justice Wainwright delivered the opinion of the Court. [pdf]
Link to e-briefs: FPL FARMING LTD. v. ENVIRONMENTAL PROCESSING SYSTEMS, L.C.
RR Comm'n v. Texas Citizens for a Safe Future and Clean Water, No. 08-0497 (Tex. Mar. 11, 2011)(Guzman)
The Texas Water Code requires the Railroad Commission of Texas to weigh the “public interest” in the permitting of proposed oil
and gas waste injection wells. In a ruling, the Commission declined to consider traffic-safety factors in its public interest inquiry. We
determine whether the Commission’s interpretation of “public interest” is entitled to judicial deference. Because we conclude the
Commission’s construction of the phrase was reasonable and in accord with the plain language of the statute, we hold the court of
appeals erred in not deferring to the Commission’s interpretation. We therefore reverse the court of appeals’ judgment and render
judgment for the petitioners in accordance with the trial court’s original judgment.
The court of appeals failed to grant deference to the Commission’s interpretation of “public interest” in section 27.051(b)(1) of the
Water Code and instead held the Commission abused its discretion in its construction of the statute. Because we conclude the
Commission’s interpretation of the phrase “public interest” is reasonable and in accord with the plain meaning of the statute, we
hold the court of appeals erred in refusing to defer to the Commission’s construction of the term.
Accordingly, we reverse the court of appeals’ judgment and render judgment for the Commission and Pioneer in accordance with
the trial court’s original judgment.
RAILROAD COMMISSION OF TEXAS AND PIONEER EXPLORATION, LTD. v. TEXAS CITIZENS FOR A SAFE FUTURE AND CLEAN
WATER AND JAMES G. POPP; from Travis County; 3rd district (03-07-00025-CV, 254 SW3d 492, 12-06-07)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and renders judgment.
Justice Guzman delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justice Hecht, Justice Wainwright, Justice Medina, Justice Green, and
Justice Johnson joined. [pdf]
Chief Justice Jefferson delivered an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Justice Willett and Justice Lehrmann joined. [pdf]
View Electronic Briefs 08-0497
RAILROAD COMM'N OF TX v. TX CITIZENS FOR A SAFE FUTURE AND CLEAN WATER
Guitar Holding Co. LP, No. 06-0904 (Tex. May 30, 2008)(David Medina) (water rights, administrative law,
challenged district rule governing water transfers found invalid)
GUITAR HOLDING COMPANY, L.P. v. HUDSPETH COUNTY UNDERGROUND WATER CONSERVATION
DISTRICT NO. 1, ET AL.; from Hudspeth County; 8th district (08-04-00296-CV and 08-05-00115-CV, 209 S.W.3d
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and renders judgment.
Justice Medina delivered the opinion of the Court.
Canyon Regional Water Authority v. Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, No. 06-0873 (Tex. May 16, 2008)(Opinion
by Paul Green) (intergovernmental dispute over easement for water extraction from lake, condemnation power)
CANYON REGIONAL WATER AUTHORITY v. GUADALUPE-BLANCO RIVER AUTHORITY; from Guadalupe
County; 4th district (04-05-00943-CV, 211 S.W.3d 351, 06-21-06)
The Court affirms in part and reverses in part the court of appeals' judgment and remands the case to the trial
Justice Green delivered the opinion of the Court.
TEXAS COURTS OF APPEALS CASES (PETITION DENIED)
CITY OF AUSTIN, ET AL. v. NORTHWEST AUSTIN MUNICIPAL UTILITY DISTRICT NO. 1, ET AL.; from Travis
County; 3rd district (03-04-00240-CV, 274 SW3d 820, 11-14-08, pet. denied Sep. 2009) 2 petition motion to
amend petition for review denied
Appellants Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1, Don Zimmerman, William C. Ferguson, and Alan R.
Weiss appeal from the judgment against them in their suit to declare that an agreement executed by the District
and appellees City of Austin and City Council members (collectively, "the City") is an "allocation agreement" under
section 54.016(f) of the Texas Water Code and that the agreement violates section 54.016(f) by allowing both the
City and the District to assess and collect their full rate of property taxes. (2) The trial court granted partial
summary judgment in favor of the City, upholding the City's property tax levy and collection of taxes. Because we
hold that the agreement is an allocation agreement as a matter of law, we reverse the district court's order in part
and render summary judgment in favor of the District on this issue. However, because summary judgment is
improper as to the parties' remaining declaratory claims, we reverse this portion of the judgment and remand for
Because we hold that the Agreement between the City and the District is an allocation agreement under Texas
Water Code section 54.016(f) and that section 54.016(f) applies to this Agreement, we reverse the summary
judgment in part and render judgment in favor of the District on this issue. Furthermore, because the District's suit
for declaratory judgment was not barred by the statute of limitations or laches, we reverse this portion of the
summary judgment and remand the parties' remaining declaratory claims for further proceedings consistent with
this opinion. We conclude that the district court properly granted the City's plea to the jurisdiction as to the
individual plaintiffs for lack of standing and affirm the district court's order dismissing their suit. In light of our
disposition reversing the summary judgment in part, we reverse the award of attorney's fees to the City and
remand the issue of attorney's fees to the trial court for further consideration.