April 06, 2005
PLOB watch - HB2881

Got an email yesterday (reproduced below the fold) about another PLOB: House Bill 2881, which would create a new government agency designed to keep people from suing polluters. I think we've finally stumbled onto the master plan to limit activist judges - make it so hard to get access to the courthouse (tort "reform" has already done yeoman's work on this) that we eventually won't need any judges. I can't wait for the creation of the Texas Street Crime Resolution Commission, to which all victims of mugging must first apply for remediation before they can press charges. And mad props to Bill Keffer for doing his best to make sure that our state government never gets too small.

Many of you will recall the "Texas Residential Construction Commission" created last session to effectively immunize Texas homebuilders (a/k/a Perry Homes and Weekley Homes) from suit. Under that act, homeowners who have a gripe with their builder about a plumbing defect are now required to have a "State of Texas Plumbing Inspector" dispatched to their home who passes of their complaint. Not surprisingly, the new law imposes arbitration as part of the continuing "neutral resolution process."

Not wanting to miss a trick, Rep. Bill Keffer of Dallas has just introduced H.B. 2881, which adopts the same protections for oil and gas companies accused of wrongfully polluting land during oil- and gas-related activity. The bill prohibits a landowner from bringing suit for remediation or damages without first filing a complaint with the Railroad Commission. A Commission "field inspector" first investigates the complaint before the entire Commission proceeds with a hearing and makes formal findings. Naturally, the land owner pays all costs of the investigation if the findings are against the claimant.

My favorite provision of this proposal is Sec. 91.716 that prohibits the parties from entering into a voluntary settlement agreement that might provide for the payment of damages without Commission participation.

Rep. Bill Keffer Bill is the managing partner in the Dallas law firm of Miller & Keffer, which according to his website, "specializes in environmental litigation across the United States." The firm lists as representative clients: ChevronTexaco, Oxy USA, ConocoPhillips, BP Amoco.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 06, 2005 to That's our Lege | TrackBack