The lawsuit was filed on Aug. 31, 2015 by the city of Conroe and several utility providers. Of the 18 original claims made, 16 were previously dismissed. Thursday's ruling states the directors are immune from being sued over votes related to groundwater regulations by the LSGCD in Montgomery County. The ruling also states the city cannot seek attorney's fees from the LSGCD during the course of the lawsuit.
“This is a major victory for Lone Star," Board of Directors President Richard Tramm said. "This court opinion removes one of the two remaining original claims and ensures that the plaintiffs—and, unfortunately, their citizens and water customers—are responsible for funding the remainder of its costly litigation."
The lawsuit will now move forward with one last remaining claim made by the plaintiffs—that the LSGCD rules are not valid.
Conroe Place 1 Councilman Duane Ham—who was recently granted a $50,000 budget to lobby against the LSGCD and the San Jacinto River Authority during the Texas Legislative session—said he was not surprised by the ruling on the attorney fees and the immunity of the board members. However, he said the ruling also shows the city has a case against the LSGCD with regard to its regulations.
"The fact of the matter is the court of appeals said we have a case and we can move forward and go to court," Ham said. "The whole thing that they have over there is a sham. It is not based on science, it is based on junk science that they fabricate to put dollars in their pockets. We are looking forward to going to court. Their message is that we are wasting taxpayer dollars, but we are not, we are fighting for the taxpayers."
Both parties now have 15 days to ask for another hearing by the court of appeals, or 45 days to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, according to the LSGCD. If neither side appeals, the case would proceed to trial to determine if the groundwater regulations in Montgomery County are valid.
"Lone Star firmly believes that it will prevail on the remaining original claim filed by the plaintiffs," LSGCD General Manager Kathy Turner Jones said. "That claim will ultimately go the way that 17 of their original 18 claims went—nowhere."