Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Coyote Lake Ranch, LLC v. City of Lubbock

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20203
Nos. 14-0572, (Tex., 05/27/2016)

The Texas Supreme Court held that the common-law "accommodation doctrine," which gives an oil-and-gas lessee an implied right to use the land as reasonably necessary to produce and remove the minerals as long as it exercises that right with due regard for the landowner's rights, also extends to groundwater. The case arose following a dispute between a city and a ranch. In the 1950s, the city and ranch entered into a deed under which the city bought the ranch’s groundwater to help supply water to city residents and those of other towns. In 2012, the city announced plans to increase water-extraction efforts on the ranch, possibly drilling as many as 20 test wells in the middle of the ranch, followed by 60 additional wells spread across the ranch. The ranch objected that the proposed drilling program would increase erosion and injure the surface unnecessarily. But the city contended that it has full rights under its deed to pursue its plans and that the law imposes no duty on groundwater owners, as it does on mineral owners, to accommodate the surface owner. A trial court granted the ranch a temporary injunction, but the appellate court reversed and dissolved the injunction. The Texas Supreme Court then granted the ranch’s petition for review, ruling in its favor. The accommodation doctrine is based on the principle that conflicting estates should act with due regard for each other’s rights. Texas courts have applied the doctrine only when mineral interests are involved. But given the similarities between mineral and groundwater estates, as well as in their conflicts with surface estates, the doctrine should apply to groundwater interests as well.