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Water Fight Between Mont., Wyo. Going To Trial

Publication Date: 
October 14, 2013
Miami Herald - AP
Matthew Brown

Matthew Brown's Miami Herald article quotes Stanford Law Professor Barton Thompson, who will serve as a special master in a Supreme Court case between Montana and Wyoming. 

A legal clash over water rights on the arid Northern Plains is bound for trial as attorneys for Montana press their case that Wyoming farmers and oil and gas companies are sucking too much water from tributaries of the Yellowstone River.

Montana sued its southern neighbor before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007. It claims Wyoming is violating a 1950 agreement by depleting the Tongue and Powder rivers before they flow north into Montana.


Yet the special master in the case, Stanford Law School Professor Barton Thompson, signaled in a ruling last month that he will at least give Montana the chance to make its argument.

Thompson rejected Wyoming's attempt to dismiss Montana's claims on coal-bed methane (CBM) and said there was "no basis for carving a flat exemption for CBM groundwater" from the compact.

"The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of the connection between CBM groundwater production and surface flows," he wrote.