Texas v. New Mexico
Annotate this Case
462 U.S. 554 (1983)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Texas v. New Mexico, 462 U.S. 554 (1983)
Texas v. New Mexico
No. 65, Orig.
Argued March 30, 1983
Decided June 17, 1983
462 U.S. 554
The Pecos River Compact was entered into by Texas and New Mexico (and approved by Congress) to govern allocation of the waters of the Pecos River, which rises in New Mexico and flows into Texas. Article III(a) of the Compact requires that New Mexico
"not deplete by man's activities the flow of the Pecos River at the New Mexico-Texas state line below an amount which will give to Texas a quantity of water equivalent to that available to Texas under the 1947 condition."
The Compact establishes the Pecos River Commission (Commission) -- consisting of one Commissioner from each State and a nonvoting representative of the United States -- and empowers it to make all findings of fact necessary to administer the Compact. The two voting Commissioners were unable to agree when a dispute arose between the States concerning the methods for determining annual shortfalls of state-line water flow with regard to Texas' right to receive as much water as it would have received under the consumption conditions prevailing in New Mexico in 1947. Texas filed this action against New Mexico (the United States intervened to protect its claims on the waters of the river), alleging that New Mexico had breached its obligations under Art. III(a) of the Compact and seeking a decree commanding New Mexico to deliver water in accordance with the Compact. This Court appointed a Special Master, who ultimately filed the report involved here, and the parties filed various exceptions thereto.
1. Exceptions of the Government and New Mexico to the Master's recommendation that either the United States Commissioner or some other third party be given a vote on the Commission and be empowered to participate in all Commission deliberations are sustained. Once congressional consent is given to an interstate compact as required by the Compact Clause, the compact is transformed into a law of the United States, and unless the compact is unconstitutional, no court may order relief inconsistent with its express terms. Here, the Compact provides that the Government Commissioner shall not have the right to vote, and no other third party is given the right to vote on matters before the Commission. This Court cannot rewrite the Compact so as to provide for a third, tie-breaking vote. Moreover, the Court's equitable powers have never been exercised so as to appoint quasi-administrative officials
to control the division of interstate waters on a day-to-day basis. Pp. 462 U. S. 564-566.
2. New Mexico's exception to the Master's alternative recommendation to continue the suit as presently postured is overruled, and the recommendation is accepted. There is no merit to New Mexico's contention that this Court may do nothing more than review the Commission's official actions, and that the case should be dismissed if it is found either that there is no Commission action to review or that actions taken by the Commission were not arbitrary or capricious. This Court's original jurisdiction to resolve controversies between two States extends to a suit by one State to enforce its compact with another State or to declare rights under a compact. Here, fundamental structural considerations of the Compact militate against New Mexico's theory, since, if all questions under the Compact had to be decided by the Commission in the first instance, New Mexico could indefinitely prevent authoritative Commission action solely by exercising its veto on the Commission. Nor do the Compact's express terms constitute the Commission as the sole arbiter of disputes over New Mexico's Art. III obligations. Moreover, if authorized representatives of the compacting States have reached an agreement on action to be taken by the Commission, this Court will not review the Commission's action at the behest of one of the States absent extraordinary cause or a precise mandate from Congress. Pp. 462 U. S. 566-571.
3. Texas' exception to the Master's recommendation against approval of Texas' motion to adopt a so-called "Double Mass Analysis" method for determining when a shortfall in state-line flows has occurred is overruled. The Compact provides that, until the Commission adopts a more feasible method, an "inflow-outflow method" shall be used to measure state-line shortfalls. The "Double Mass Analysis" is not close enough to what the Compact terms an "inflow-outflow method, as described in the Report of the Engineering Advisory Committee" to make it acceptable for use in determining New Mexico's compliance with its Art. III obligations. While the Compact leaves the Commission free to adopt the "Double Mass Analysis," this Court may not apply it against New Mexico in the absence of Commission action. Pp. 462 U. S. 571-574.
Exceptions to Special Master's report sustained in part and overruled in part.
BRENNAN,J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.