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Supreme Court asks Justice Department to analyze Oklahoma water case

The nation's high court seeks the views of the administration before deciding whether to uphold an appeals court decision that gives Oklahoma the right to ban water sales to North Texas.
by Chris Casteel Modified: April 2, 2012 at 8:15 pm •  Published: April 2, 2012

Court ruled in Oklahoma's favor

The 10th Circuit Court ruled last year that Oklahoma has wide authority under the Red River Compact to enact laws regarding water in the state that is subject to the agreement.

Though the Texas water district has accused Oklahoma of engaging in economic protectionism, the appeals court said the compact — among Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana — shielded it from claims that it was unconstitutionally interfering with interstate commerce.

The Tarrant district also claims Oklahoma is defying the plain language of the compact. It says Texas has the right to 25 percent of the water in one of the regions specified in the compact known as Subbasin 5 but that Oklahoma is not allowing access.

The Oklahoma attorney general's office said the compact never intended to allow Texas to reach into Oklahoma for water within its borders.

“Texas bargained for and received virtually all of the significant water originating in Texas,” the Oklahoma attorney general said in a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court. “It is disingenuous at best for Tarrant to now assert the right to take the water from other states in subbasin 5 in addition to all of the water originating in Texas.”

Court didn't hear Hugo appeal

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in a similar case in which the city of Hugo was blocked from selling water to the Texas city of Irving. In that case, without comment, the high court effectively upheld the 10th Circuit Court's decision that Hugo couldn't sue its parent state over the constitutionality of the water laws.

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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