Town of Flower Mound v. EagleRidge Operating, LLC, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 7561 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth Aug. 22, 2019, no pet.)
In this case, the Fort Worth Court of Appeals held that the trial court lacked authority to grant a temporary injunction against the Town of Flower Mound enjoining the enforcement of a local ordinance that limited truck traffic to and from well sites.
EagleRidge Operating, LLC (“EagleRidge”) operated wells in Flower Mound, Texas. EagleRidge’s operations produced wastewater that was removed from well sites by tanker truck. A city ordinance adopted by the Town of Flower Mound provided that work on wells (other than drilling) must occur only between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm during the week and between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm on Saturdays. The city determined that EagleRidge’s wastewater removal was subject to the time restraints of the ordinance.
EagleRidge sought, and the trial court granted, a temporary restraining order prohibiting the city from enforcing the ordinance against EagleRidge. On appeal, Flower Mound claimed the trial court lacked jurisdiction to grant the injunction because the ordinance is a penal ordinance, meaning EagleRidge must demonstrate an irreparable injury to a vested property right to enjoin the enforcement of a penal ordinance.
The Fort Worth Court of Appeals first turned to determining whether the ordinance was a penal ordinance. The court determined that it was, because its purpose was to address a public wrong and promote the public welfare in terms of environment, infrastructure, health, welfare and safety, the city issued EagleRidge a citation for violating the ordinance, and that violation was considered unlawful and punishable by a fine.
Because the ordinance was penal in nature, in order to establish jurisdiction, EagleRidge had the burden to demonstrate irreparable injury to a vested property right. The court held that the fines alone did not cause irreparable injury because the record does not show that the fines would be so great so as to destroy the business, nor that the ordinance imposes penalties on EagleRidge’s customers who would be reluctant to expose themselves to criminal prosecution in order to challenge the law. EagleRidge submitted evidence of an increase in operating costs to comply with the ordinance, economic losses which might occur if the wells become unprofitable, which could lead to some wells needing to be shut down because they could become unprofitable in the future.
The court held that this was not sufficient to establish irreparable harm. The court construed these arguments as a claim for a regulatory taking, but noted that EagleRidge failed to offer evidence of the value of the mineral interest in place or any loss of value. The court held that the argument that wells might have to be shut down was speculative. In rejecting a temporary injunction based on such a claim, the court held EagleRidge offered no evidence of the value of the mineral interest in place or the loss of any value.
In conclusion, the court dissolved the temporary injunction issued by the trial court and remanded the case back to the trial court for further disposition on the merits.