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Amicus Brief Filed Supporting Landowners in Key Dispute over Ownership of Groundwater at Texas Supreme Court

FORT WORTH, Texas (April 2, 2024) – Following the filing of an amicus brief at the Texas Supreme Court by Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) in Cactus Water Services, LLC v. COG Operating, LLC., TSCRA President Carl Ray Polk Jr. issued the below statement:

“Perhaps no private property right is as important in this generation as the longstanding principle of groundwater ownership. In the case of Cactus vs. COG, the Texas Supreme Court has an opportunity to clarify and reassert important principles regarding the landowner’s ownership of groundwater. Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and its more than 28,000 members look to the court to continue its tradition of upholding fundamental private property rights and believe that this amicus brief will provide important policy background on the issues as well as the implications of the decision by the court.”

Background:

  • Beginning in 2005, Collier and Balmorhea Ranches, Inc. entered certain oil and gas leases with COG Operating, LLC. The oil and gas leases did not convey any rights of ownership to the groundwater underlying the property, allowing only the extraction of oil, gas, and hydrocarbons and limited rights to use groundwater from a newly drilled well to aid in the extraction and production process.
  • In 2019, Collier and Balmorhea Ranches leased the ownership rights to all water on and underlying the property to Cactus Water Services, LLC. COG Operating filed suit against Cactus Water, and both parties sought competing declaratory judgments regarding the ownership of the produced water.
  • A trial court previously ruled that COG owns the produced water that comes up during oil and gas operations. On appeal, the Eighth Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court and agreed that COG owns the produced water resulting from its operations. Cactus Water filed a Petition for Review with the Texas Supreme Court where the case is now under review.
  • TSCRA believes groundwater has and should continue to be owned by the surface owner. In response to the rulings, TSCRA filed a brief in support of Cactus Water reiterating the important property rights at stake in this litigation, arguing the Court of Appeals’ decision significantly undermines private property rights in Texas and erodes a landowner’s right to negotiate and contract for one’s own assets, including water.
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