Another round of legal wrangling took place at the Office of the State Engineer.
In a filing last week, OSE’s Water Rights Division disputes claims by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) protesting Augustin Plains Ranch LLC’s application to pump 54,000 acre feet of water from the San Agustin Plains.
The document, Water Rights Division’s Response To The NMELC Protestants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, states that the Water Rights Division “respectfully submits that the State Engineer may deny the NMELC Motion” for the following reasons: 1) the NMELC did not meet the requirements for a motion for summary judgment “because it does not plainly state either the undisputed material facts on the law upon which it is entitled to judgment,” and 2) the WRD disputes many of the facts presented by the NMELC.
This is in response to NMELC’s earlier motion for a summary judgment.
To be clear, a summary judgment is an order ruling that no factual issues remain to be tried and therefore a cause of action or all causes of action in a complaint can be decided upon certain facts without trial.
A summary judgment is based upon a motion by one of the parties that contends that all necessary factual issues are settled or so one-sided they need not be tried.
In other words, the Environmental Law Center’s position is that Tom Blaine, the State Engineer, has enough information to make a decision on granting or denying Augustin Plains Ranch the permit it is seeking. However, the Water Rights Division agrees with Augustin Plains Ranch’s position that NMELC’s facts are either wrong or incomplete. Hence the denial.
Douglas Meicklejohn, Executive Director of NMELC said he has until Dec. 4 to file the law center’s response, and declined to comment until then.
“The one thing I can tell you is, the Water Rights Division is a separate unit within the State Engineer’s office,” Meicklejohn said. “So, the Water Rights Division saying that it opposes our motion isn’t the same as the State Engineer saying the motion’s denied.”
The State Engineer will take into account the Water Rights Division’s arguments in rendering his eventual decision.
“As I understand it, the way things work in the state engineer’s office — and this is quite similar to the way things work in a lot of state agencies — is that the head of the agency makes the decision about whether or not to grant a permit,” he said. “But the staff of the agency takes a position about whether or not the permit should be granted.”
It’s safe to say the legal wrangling at the Office of the State Engineer is far from over.