The lawsuit filed in March 2010 by The Aransas Project (TAP), a non-profit organization represented by Houston-based attorney Jim Blackburn, alleged that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) violated the “taking” provision of Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because it permitted diversions of freshwater from the Guadalupe and San Antonio Rivers. The “taking” provision prohibits any activity that kills or harms a listed species or that destroys its habitat, and TAP alleged that diversions "took" whooping cranes, which are listed as endangered under the ESA. After a three-year litigation process and millions of dollars in legal fees, U.S. Judge Janis Jack of Corpus Christi ruled March 11, 2013, in favor of TAP. Her ruling prohibited TCEQ from issuing new water permits on the Guadalupe and San Antonio Rivers and ordered Texas to pursue a plan with US Fish & Wildlife to ensure fresh water for the cranes’ habitat. On March 15, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and GBRA moved that the federal district court stay its order. The motions were denied. Abbott and GBRA appealed on an emergency basis. On March 26, the appeals court granted a stay on Judge Jack’s ruling. With the stay in place, Texas officials are able to issue water permits. On Aug. 8, 2013, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans heard arguments regarding the lower court’s decision.
Link to the 5th Circuit oral argument recordings page
Link to the specific audio recording of the August 8, 2013 oral argument in the whooping crane case