Nor, the Court noted, can it assume that Mississippi wants to do so, particularly because the initial complaint expressly disavowed the doctrine of equitable apportionment. We are the States law office serving Tennessee with principled, independent, and excellent counsel. It has been making these claims since 2005 in one form or another. So (and I oversimplify a little here), the Special Master prepares a report with findings of fact and recommendations, and then the parties file objections to the report (if they have any) for the justices to resolve. [Read Report here.] Nashville- Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III released the following statement in response to a unanimous ruling this morning from the United States Supreme Court in Mississippi v. Tennessee, et al. From the August/September 2022 issue, 2022 Reason Foundation | Second, the Court noted that the water in the Aquifer flows naturally between states, just as does water (or fish) in all of its other equitable apportionment cases. Although the water source at issue in this case is water from hundreds of feet below the surface, Roberts wrote that we see no basis for a different result.. | The unanimous ruling not only ended Mississippi and Tennessees long-running dispute, but also provided a framework for other legal battles that may emerge in the coming decades, says Craig. came to the court when Mississippi claimed Tennessee, Supreme Court returns to the courtroom for first time since COVID-19 pandemic, Texas' controversialban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, Some Supreme Court justices skeptical of Texas abortion law, impact on other rights, since the justices returned to theircourtroom since the pandemic, Your California Privacy Rights/Privacy Policy. We see things differently, Roberts wrote. Located in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the National Agricultural Law Center serves the nations vast agricultural community and is a key partner of the USDA National Agricultural Library. Absent a statute or compact to govern the dispute, there's no reason to treat groundwater differently. This makes eminent sense. All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to Heres the Deal, our politics newsletter for analysis you wont find anywhereelse. An equitable apportionment cases would require a broader range of evidence and could require the joinder of additional parties, such as the other states under which the Aquifer lies. Its a clear victory for Tennessee on all issues, and for all states who share underground water resources. That could be so, but dont forget this would require the states to agree on a plan, and even if that happens, there are plenty of interstate water compacts that have also found their way to the Supreme Court in recent years. The Court has not, however, considered whether equitable apportionment applies to interstate aquifers. | Equitable apportionment was long ago established by the U.S. Supreme Court when water resources like rivers cross state lines and are shared by multiple states. Mississippi relied upon the Courts 2013 decision in Tarrant County Regional Water District v. Hermann to support its arguments. When the court announced late last week it would issue an opinion on Monday there was some speculation it was readying its rulingonTexas' controversialban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected Mississippis claim that Tennessee was stealing its groundwater in a decision that legal experts say could have major implications for future battles over water amid the worsening climate crisis. In 2014, Mississippi sought leave to file a complaint against Tennessee, the City of Memphis, and Memphis public utility in the United States Supreme Court. Both Mississippi and Tennessee filed exceptions to the Special Masters report. This is interesting becauseMississippi v. Tennessee was likely the easiest and most straight-forward of the nine cases in the October sitting, and (because there were nine argued cases), it is likely that each justice will get one majority opinion from the sitting. Kansas v. Colorado, 206 U. S., at 93. NEXT: SCOTUS Does Not Decide S.B. Mississippi alleges that Tennessee's pumping has taken hundreds of billions of gallons of water that were once located beneath Mississippi. While this was not a high-profile case, it is potentially important, as it brought greater clarity to the rights states have over the groundwater underneath their lands. The Special Master found that the Aquifer is an interstate water resource, that it is a single hydrogeological unit, that Tennessees pumping affects groundwater beneath Mississippi, and that prior to this pumping, groundwater flowed between the two states. Now, in order to claim legal ownership of both interstate groundwater and surface water, states will need to go through the equitable apportionment process to determine who gets what. "But such jurisdiction does not confer unfettered 'ownership or control' of flowing interstate waters themselves. Associated Press. Instead, the high court ruled that the legal doctrine of equitable apportionmentwhich has long been used to determine what states get control of interstate surface wateralso applies to groundwater. They cant claim all the water for themselves.. | That court will then divide up the water as it sees fit. Mondays ruling was the first time the Supreme Court has ever weighed in on the issue of interstate groundwater. The breadth and depth of the aquifer generally decrease from north to south. More from the opinion (which may be of particular interest to property law profs or those with an interest in the law governing underground resources): Mississippi contends that it has sovereign ownership of all groundwater beneath its surface, so equitable apportionment ought not apply. Two cases on the Texas issue were argued Nov. 1 under an accelerated process that the court has previously used only rarely and in some of its most notable decisions, including the Bush v. Gore case that settled the 2000 presidential election. Its a clear victory for Tennessee on all issues, and for all states who share underground water resources, Slatery said in a statement. But such jurisdiction does not confer unfettered "ownership or control" of flowing interstate waters themselves. 7.22.2022 7:30 AM, J.D. 2549 N. Hatch Ave. Associated Press As the climate crisis intensifies and droughts worsen, particularly in the American West, groundwater will only become a more precious resourceand interstate groundwater disputes will likely become more common, she argues. Mississippi had sought at least $615 million in damages. Learn more about Friends of the NewsHour. In 2005, Mississippi sued Memphis and its public water utility, Memphis Light, Gas & Water Utility alleging that Memphis pumping wrongfully appropriated groundwater belonging to Mississippi. Don Tyson Annex (DTAN) We see things differently. . Craig points to the fact that Utah and Nevada have come close to litigation over the issue, and the High Plains (Ogallala) Aquifer, which runs through the Great Plains, is already being heavily mined. Hundreds of feet beneath Memphis lies one of the City's most valuable resources: the Middle Claiborne Aquifer. Arkansas marks the City's western border, and Mississippi its southern. Because Mississippis complaint did not seek equitable apportionment, he recommended the Court dismiss the complaint, but grant Mississippi leave to file an amended complaint to seek equitable apportionment. Some are drilled near the Mississippi/Tennessee border, but none cross the state line. Mississippi argued that it had owned that water since it entered the United States in 1817, and sought $615 million in damages from Tennessee. Water disputes between states are rather common and often quite serious. (Internal quotations omitted.). Because the Fifth Circuit found that equitable apportionment was the proper method of determining the rights of the two states, the appellate court held that Tennessee was an indispensable party. Hinderlider v. La Plata River & Cherry Creek Ditch Co., 304 U. S. 92, 102 (1938). Further, Mississippi argued absolute ownership of groundwater beneath its state, even after that water has crossed its border into another state. The doctrine's guiding principle is that States have an equal right to make a reasonable use of a shared water resource." Emma Camp Its request for leave to file a complaint against Tennessee was also denied without comment. In a decision that could have ramificationsforthe allocation of drinking water supplies between other states, the nation's highest court applied the same standard it uses to resolve disputes between states that share water flowing in a river. Instead, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court in an interstate water dispute that reaches back to 2005. This doctrine allows the United States Supreme Court to allocate rights in a disputed interstate water resource if one state sues another under the Courts original jurisdiction. (The term surface water, on the other hand, refers to any body of fresh water thats above ground.). Mississippi's ownership approach would Chief Justice Roberts authored the opinion of the court, which dismissed the case and declined to grant Mississippi leave to amend its complaint. Mississippi, though, contends that it has sovereign ownership of all groundwater beneath its surface, so equitable apportionment ought not apply. smartnews Appropriately enough, Mississippi v. Tennessee was the first case argued this term, and Chief Justice Roberts appears to have taken over for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the fastest out of the gate. Some water lawyers have speculated that this ruling may prompt states to enter into compacts to address interstate aquifers now in order to provide certainty to states and not leave the apportionment in the hands of the Supreme Court. Privacy Policy | [Read Opinion here.]. Magazines, per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Carbon Credits Should Be One of Our Best Tools to Fight Climate Change, What Watergate Experts Think About the Jan. 6 Hearings, Now Connecting Hot Days to Climate Change, Among Black and Indigenous Americans During COVID-19 Pandemic, Or create a free account to access more articles, The Supreme Court's Decision on the Mississippi-Tennessee Aquifer Conflict Will Change U.S. Water Wars, People With Diabetes Are More Vulnerable to Heart Disease.. . Mississippi, though, contends that it has sovereign ownership of all groundwater beneath its surface, so equitable apportionment ought not apply. But if they want an official decree dictating how they have to share it, theyll need to go through an equitable apportionment process, in which they must go before a court and argue their case. As the Court explained, when a water resource is shared between states, each has an interest that should be respected by the other. To get the Volokh Conspiracy Daily e-mail, please sign up here. The United States Supreme Court recently issued a unanimous opinion in an ongoing groundwater dispute between Mississippi and Tennessee. Mississippi could not add Tennessee to the lower court lawsuit because when a lawsuit is filed between states, the United States Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction. It is certainly true that "each State has full jurisdiction over the lands within its borders, including the beds of streams and other waters." The Court distinguished that case as it involved an interstate compact between Oklahoma and Texas.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III praised the decision. Noted the Chief: We decline to decide whether Mississippi should be granted such leave, because the State has never sought it. 2022 TIME USA, LLC. Wyoming v. Colorado, 259 U. S., at 466. The Aquifer underlies more than just Memphis, stretching beneath eight states in total, including Mississippi. Note, however, that his decision to write in this case was likely made before he was aware the S.B.8 cases would be on the Court's plate. We now have some finality. 7.22.2022 8:45 AM, Steven Greenhut Instead, Mississippi brought tort claims. ", More:Supreme Court returns to the courtroom for first time since COVID-19 pandemic. The case, which yieldedthe first decisionof the Supreme Court's 2021-2022 term, came to the court when Mississippi claimed Tennessee was pumping hundreds of billions of gallons of water from the Middle Claiborne Aquiferlocated under Mississippi's borders. You have reached your limit of 4 free articles. States may now seek equitable apportionment of interstate aquifers from the Supreme Court assuming they can meet the legal requirements to do so. It has also been applied to disputes over interstate river basins, such as the recent Florida v. Georgia decision from 2018, and to a case involving anadromous fish that travel down a river through several states. In November of 2020, the Special Master, Judge Eugene E. Siler, Jr., recommended that the Supreme Court dismiss Mississippis complaint with leave to amend. The trial court dismissed the case for failing to join Tennessee as an indispensable party and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. In this case, Mississippi's objections are the more significant, because Mississippi objected to the Special Master's conclusion that groundwater is subject to equitable apportionment, under which the Court "allocates rights to a disputed interstate water resource" that is not governed by statute, interstate compact, or prior appropriation. Mississippis absolute ownership argument would allow an upstream state to completely cut off flow to a downstream state, which would be contrary to the equitable apportionment doctrine. Because he found the Aquifer an interstate water resource, he concluded that equitable apportionment was the only available remedy. Surf and Turf: How Seaweed Helps Cows Become Better Climate Citizens, How We Can Learn to Live with COVID-19 After Vaccinations. Given the number of interstate water disputes around the country, this is an important decision and could impact future groundwater disputes between states. Subscribe to Here's the Deal, our politics newsletter. Beneath Memphis sits the Middle Claiborne Aquifer (the Aquifer), which has provided Memphis with drinking water for well over 100 years. Thus, we have "consistently denied" the proposition that a State may exercise exclusive ownership or control of interstate "waters flowing within her boundaries." The Court turned its analysis to whether equitable apportionment of the Middle Claiborne Aquifer would be sufficiently similar to past applications to warrant the same treatment. The Court found that it was sufficiently similar. We see things differently, Roberts wrote. Here's how Chief Justice Roberts summarized the dispute in Mississippi v. Tennessee: The City of Memphis sits on the banks of the Mississippi River in the southwest corner of Tennessee. allow an upstream State to completely cut off flow to a downstream one, a result contrary to our equitable apportionment jurisprudence. The Chief Justice discussed the doctrine of equitable apportionment, and its guiding principle that States have an equal right to make reasonable use of a shared water resource. He noted that the doctrine has been applied to interstate rivers and streams for decades. The Special Master will then offer the Court a recommendation of how to rule in the case, which the Court may adopt or reject.). The complicated legal questions presented by the water dispute led the justices to contemplate some unusual hypotheticals duringoral argument in the case last month the first since the justices returned to theircourtroom since the pandemic. This would have been a fair assumption when he was the swing justice, but that no longer appears to be the case. The Court also noted that to the extent theTarrant case stands for the proposition that one state may not enter another to take water absent an express agreement, that is not at issue in the instant case. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo, By Suman Naishadham, Matthew Daly, Associated Press. In the lawsuit, Mississippi rejected any equitable apportionment solution, which is the normal, recognized way for handling water disputes between states. FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2021 photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington. The Court agreed that each state has full jurisdiction over the lands within its borders, including the beds of streams of and other waters. That does not, however, confer unfettered ownership or control of the flowing interstate waters themselves. Although the Courts past cases have involved streams and rivers, it saw no basis for a different result in the context of the Aquifer. Ever since, water pumped from the aquifer has provided Memphis with an abundant supply of clean, affordable drinking water. Cheryl Patterson, general counsel forMemphis Light, Gas and Water, said the utility is "extremely pleased" with the decision and that it "charts a sound path for interstate groundwater disputes going forward." The Court held it need not decide this issue, because Mississippi did not seek leave to file such an amended complaint. elvis changa anoa voting isn

Site is undergoing maintenance

The Light Orchestra

Maintenance mode is on

Site will be available soon. Thank you for your patience!

Lost Password