2020 Environmental Real Estate Issues

A recently enacted statute created the “Court of Appeals for the Fifteenth Court of Appeals District.” This new court will be an intermediate appellate court with limited jurisdiction and a district that includes the entire state. All other intermediate courts of appeal have more general jurisdiction and a specific geographic district within the state.

As an intermediate appellate court, appeals from the 15th Court will go to the Supreme Court of Texas.

Appeals from Cases involving State Agencies
The 15th Court’s limited jurisdiction includes “exclusive intermediate appellate jurisdiction” over civil cases “brought by or against the state or a board, commission, department, office, or other agency in the executive branch of state government…” This jurisdiction will include appeals of cases involving the state administrative agencies whose actions affect environmental matters such as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the Railroad Commission of Texas, and the Texas General Land Office. (The 15th Court will also hear appeals from the “Business Courts” created by a separate statute.)

Transfer of Pending Appeals filed on or after September 1, 2023
The law creates the 15th Court as of September 1, 2024, although its exclusive jurisdiction could apply to cases appealed as early as September 1, 2023. A provision states: “On September 1, 2024, all cases pending in other courts of appeal that were filed on or after September 1, 2023, and of which the Court of Appeals for the Fifteenth Court of Appeals District has exclusive intermediate appellate jurisdiction are transferred to the Court of Appeals for the Fifteenth Court of Appeals District.”

Which Court Will Hear Appeals of Environmental Enforcement Cases Brought by Local Governments?
In many environmental enforcement cases, local governments such as cities and counties can bring civil cases, but TCEQ is a “necessary and indispensable party.” It is not clear to me if appeals from those cases will go to the 15th Court or to a court of appeal whose geographic district includes the trial court where the case was filed. If anyone is aware of a controlling provision on this issue, I welcome enlightenment.