Friday, June 14, 2013
This morning Justice Sotomayor delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court in Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann. The petitioner in this case, a Texas state agency responsible for providing water to north-central Texas, sought a water resource permit from the Oklahoma Water Resource Board (the respondents) to take water from a tributary of the Red River at a point in Oklahoma’s portion of the basin. Knowing that the permit request would likely be denied, Tarrant filed a suit seeking to enjoin the OWRB’s enforcement of state water laws under which water exports are barred, arguing that the statute is pre-empted by the federal Red River Compact or invalid under the Commerce Clause. The Court held that the Red River Compact, which allocates water rights within the Red River basin among the states of Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, does not pre-empt the Oklahoma water statutes. The case is significant for the pace of economic development in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, and for the right of Oklahoma to control the use of water in rivers that traverse the state.