Media Coverage

Thomas McGarity, "Environmentalists & Attorney General Both Happy About EPA Case, But For Different Reasons" (Texas Public Radio)

An October 16 story in Texas Public Radio quotes UT Law professor Thomas McGarity on the Supreme Court’s announcement that it will hear a case on the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

“University of Texas law professor Tom McGarity said Abbott is arguing that the new permitting effort violates the Clean Air Act by widening the agency’s reach.

“‘If they decide to uphold it, it’s still probably not the ideal way of going about it,’ McGarity said. ‘It would be better to have a statute that was devoted to greenhouse gases, but it will allow us to move forward.’”

“But McGarity said getting a statute out of the current seated congress addressing greenhouse gases would nearly impossible.”


David Spence, "State: Judge is Wrong to Say It Must Protect Atmosphere" (Texas Tribune)

In an article about a move by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to appeal a state court decision finding that the agency has jurisdiction over the atmosphere under the public trust doctrine, the Texas Tribune quotes UT Law professor David Spence:

“David Spence, a professor of business and law at the University of Texas at Austin, said the scope of public trust is more symbolic than practical.

“’In a sense it’s a kind of low-stakes argument,’ Spence said. ‘The public trust doctrine in the U.S. is a fairly weak thing.’ 

“Each state applies the principle differently, and few have used it with much force. The doctrine has generally been successful only at protecting open beaches for public use, Spence said.

“Spence said the appeals court could vacate [the district court statements about the doctrine] because her entire opinion is up for review. But the court may also say, ‘Look, this is dicta. Everybody calm down,’ Spence said.”

Jeff Civins, "Texas Water Permit Fight May Foster More Takings Claims" (Law 360)

On August 28, 2013, a San Antonio appellate court issued the first major opinion involving groundwater takings under the new water rights doctrine the Texas Supreme Court established under its 2012 opinion, Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Day.

The appellate court found that the Edwards Aquifer Authority had committed a regulatory taking when it limited the amount of groundwater a pecan orchard could withdraw.  The decision has attracted considerable interest in the Texas water law community and could open the doors for many more takings claims.

In an August 29 article, Law 360 quoted Jeff Civins — a partner in the Austin office of Haynes and Boone, an Energy Center board member, and a UT Law adjunct — on the potential implications.

“The stream of litigation and potential that groundwater districts must foot the cost of those takings claims will put a great deal of pressure on water managers, said Jeff Civins of Haynes & Boone LLP. Civins said although the appellate court determined that the groundwater district and the state share liability for the takings claim, the state should step in and help, because the water management districts already have limited budgets and resources.

“’It’s not a regional issue, it’s a statewide issue and it should be dealt with on statewide basis,’” Civins said. ‘The practical impact going forward of the authority making these decisions and then facing litigation anytime somebody gets less than they think they’re entitled to is only going to be exaggerated because we now have less water to go around.’”

David Spence, "Businesses Back Greenhouse Gas Emissions Law" (New York Times)

In a New York Times story on a new Texas law giving state environmental regulators the authority to issue greenhouse gas permits, Professor David Spence explains the reasons that Texas has not regulate greenhouse gas emissions to date:

“Abbott and the state environmental agency say the EPA gave states an unfairly short time for developing the new permit rules.

“The accelerated timeline ‘gives room for argument’ that the state was wronged, said David Spence, a professor of business and law at the University of Texas at Austin. Still, he said, the requirements did not come out of nowhere. The Bush EPA believed it did not have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases, he noted. It was the Supreme Court that indicated it should do so in 2007.

“Nonetheless, of all the states, ‘only Texas said, “We’re never going to regulate greenhouse gases,’” Spence said. ‘I guess everyone can draw their own conclusions over whether that’s a prudent interpretation of the law, or just political posturing.’”

David Spence, "How Enron changed regulation" (Marketplace)

A July 18 segment from NPR’s Marketplace explores the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s recent enforcement activities targeting financial companies.  For expert perspective, the segment quotes UT Law Professor David Spence.

“Banks have slowly gotten into that same space that Enron used to occupy,” Spence explains.  Financial institutions now dominate energy trading and, as a result, have greater incentive to manipulate energy markets.

Melinda Taylor, "Austin, Travis County, U.S. Fish and Wildlife face litigation over endangered species protection" (Austin American Statesman)

In a August 9, 2010 article about endangered species protection in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, the Austin American-Statesman quotes Melinda Taylor on the potential impact of a planned environmental lawsuit against government officials.

“The challenge by the environmental groups has legs, said Melinda Taylor, executive director of the Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration and Environmental Law at the University of Texas. She also represented the Travis Audubon Society during negotiations to create the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.

“‘Do we want to blow up the Balcones (plan) in this region? I would suggest not. But if it results in positive pressure on the government to complete (the preserve and the refuge), that’s a good outcome,’ Taylor said. ‘But I don’t think we want to go back to the days of fighting over a single permit, making it hard to make conservation happen on any meaningful scale.”‘