Decision by Judge on 5 hour End Op hearing due early September.
In a preliminary hearing on Monday, August 12, 2013, Administrative Law Judge Michael O’Malley from the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH), heard testimony and arguments from End Op (applicant), Environmental Stewardship and three landowners (petitioners), and counsel for the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District regarding the petitoners request for “party” status. After 5 hours of testimony and cross-examination, Judge O’Malley advised that he will receive written responses by August 29th and will issue an order on his decision in early September. A hearing on the merits of the contested case hearing will likely be held in February, 2014.
Aqua Water Supply Corporation requested the contested case hearing and has already received party status.
If granted, party status will provide an opportunity for Environmental Stewardship and the landowners to participate the February, 2014, hearing on the merits of the End Op Application. End Op vigorously opposed our requests to participate in the hearing on merits.
What does it mean to be granted Party Status? This is a good news/ bad news scenario. As we saw in the hearing, a contested case administrative hearing is very much like a court trial, except that it is heard by an administrative law judge from the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).
Unfortunately, the fact is, it takes money to be heard. Environmental Stewardship, along with the landowners, will need to launch an all out effort to make persuasive legal arguments that resonate with the Administrative Law Judge. This will require our legal teams to call expert witness to credibly tell our story (expert witnesses cost money). Our legal teams will have to discredit the claims of End Op and its expert witnesses through cross-examination. To be successful in cross-examination takes a great deal of preparation (all of this cost money).