FORT WORTH, TX
Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) applauded the Texas Supreme Court for ruling in favor of Coyote Lake Ranch, LLC in their case against The City of Lubbock. The Supreme Court ruled the accommodation doctrine that applies to mineral estates shall also apply to surface estates.
'The Supreme Court's decision is a major victory for landowners across Texas,' said TSCRA president Richard Thorpe. 'This ruling clarifies surface owners have protections against those who may own an interest in not only the mineral estate, but also the surface estate.'
In 1953, The City of Lubbock bought the rights to Coyote Lake Ranch's groundwater. In 2012, Coyote Lake Ranch took issue with The City of Lubbock's plan to drill an additional 20 groundwater test wells in the middle of the ranch, followed by 60 additional groundwater wells across the ranch. The owners of the ranch said the construction of these wells would have impeded the travel of their irrigation systems and destroyed grazing for their cattle. The ranch argued the accommodation doctrine, used in the oil and gas industry, should also apply in this case.
Coyote Lake Ranch filed their case with the Bailey County District Court where a temporary injunction against the City halted construction of the groundwater wells in November 2013. In response to the injunction, the City filed an appeal in the Amarillo Court of Appeals and the court ruled in favor of the City in June 2014.
Coyote Lake Ranch eventually petitioned the Texas Supreme Court to hear their case. TSCRA filed an amicus brief in November 2014 in support of Coyote Lake Ranch, urging the Supreme Court to hear the case. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case on Oct. 14, 2015, and the court ruled in favor of the ranch today. The decision states the City has the responsibility to use only the amount of surface 'reasonably necessary' to its operations and only do this with 'due regard' for the rights of the surface owner.
'TSCRA appreciates Coyote Lake Ranch, the Supreme Court of Texas and other leaders who have worked tirelessly on this case. TSCRA will continue to be actively engaged in private property rights issues and work to preserve and protect landowners' constitutional rights,' Thorpe concluded.
TSCRA is a 139-year-old trade association and is the largest and oldest livestock organization based in Texas. TSCRA has more than 17,000 beef cattle operations, ranching families and businesses as members. These members represent approximately 50,000 individuals directly involved in ranching and beef production who manage 4 million head of cattle on 76 million acres of land.