On Pratt on Texas I’ve recently hosted two special programs on the subject of groundwater rights in Texas (which you can hear here & here.) Additionally, I’ve read many media accounts of the differing the bills from senators Fraser and Duncan and I listened very carefully to Senator Duncan explain his position on Pratt on Texas.
According to Avalanche-Journal reporter Elliott Blackburn, Senator Fraser’s substitute bill, to attempt to bridge the divide between his original, correct position, and that of Senator Duncan, “recognizes both an owner’s “vested ownership interest” in groundwater beneath their property and a “compelling public interest vital to public safety, welfare and economic progress” in the preservation and conservation of groundwater by regulatory districts.”
Any bill which uses Duncan’s language of “compelling public interest” is the foundation for the end of your rights to use your water and a monumental blow to private property rights in Texas. Such a phrase is precisely the type of language which has brought about most all of the EPA and environmentalist-organization abuse to this country. Duncan’s language allows for no limits as to how your property can be controlled by others as long as such control is deemed to be in the public interest as decided by someone other than you, the property owner.
The “public interest” language may be designed to respect water districts but, once inserted into groundwater law as a concept, there is no way to limit such public interest to the work of groundwater conservation districts. Such wording opens the door for any activist judge, liberal or not, anywhere in Texas, to decide that the “public interest” is better served by you not irrigating your crops, or any number of other decisions, which render your property right to the water moot.
There are some fine agriculture and ranching associations taking a role in this fight but be very careful. Most of these groups are in love with playing political, get along and find compromise games in Austin and many are doing so on this issue. Some may sell out their member property owners simply because they don’t have the stomach to call a spade a spade and criticize a long-time ally, Duncan, gone wrong on an issue. Or, because they simply have limited experience with, and vision and understanding of, the larger battle over political philosophy being played out in the issue. I believe it to be equal servings of both.
Duncan’s “public interest” in your property language will be the death of your private property right to your groundwater down the road. Where else in the entire United States has a declared “public interest” not resulted in more government control and less individual freedom?
Robert Pratt is host of the top-rated Pratt on Texas radio program which can be heard at www.PrattonTexas.com
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