The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981 Page: 308
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
But the Texas Supreme Court upheld the order.54
Having won its test case, the Commission proceeded to issue a series
of orders shutting down seventeen fields for flaring.55 These orders
were also appealed to the courts. Despite the fact that for several
decades the Commission had been accumulating constitutional and
statutory power to compel the conservation of oil and gas, industry
lawyers tried to convince the judges that the Commission did not have
the authority to force operators to save gas if such savings were un-
economical.56 The state supreme court, however, unambiguously en-
dorsed the Commission's authority. In the Flour Bluff case, the court
made it clear that it would do the industry no good to plead that saving
gas was unprofitable:
If the prevention of waste of natural resources such as gas is to await the
time when direct and immediate profits can be realized from the operation,
there would have been little need for the people of Texas to have amended
their Constitution by declaring that the preservation and conservation of
natural resources of the state are public rights and duties and directing that
the Legislature pass such laws as may be appropriate thereto ... for private
enterprise would not need the compulsion of law to conserve these re-
sources if the practice were financially profitable.57
More legal and political maneuvering followed, but it was only
skirmishing.58 The war had been won by 1949, with the Railroad Com-
mission the unquestioned victor. Henceforward, with relatively insig-
nificant exceptions, casinghead gas would go into a pipeline or back
into the ground.
54Railroad Commission v. Shell Oil Co., 206 S.W.2d 235 (1947).
55These orders are in Oil and Gas Docket # 129 (Records Department of Railroad Com-
mission, Austin). See, for example, for Flour Bluff field, Order #4-13,551, Nov. 22, 1948;
for Tijerina-Canales field, Order #4-13,554, Nov. 22, 1948; for La Gloria field, Order
#4-13-555, Nov. 22, 1948.
56For historical summaries of the accumulating authority of the Railroad Commission
over conservation, see Cheek, "Conservation of Gas," 271-286, and Robert E. Hardwicke,
"Legal History of Conservation of Oil in Texas," American Bar Association, Section of
Mineral and Natural Resources Law, Legal History, 214-269.
57Railroad Commission v. Flour Bluff Oil Co., 219 S.W.2d 506 (Tex. Civ. App. 1949)
error ref'd p. 508.
58The major controversy after 1949 was over the Spraberry field. See Railroad Com-
mission v. Rowan Oil Co., 259 S.W.2d 173 (1953), and Nelson Jones, "The Spraberry De-
cision," Oil and Gas Law. With Articles Pertaining to Sulphur, Taxation, Tidelands and
Other Related Subjects (2 vols.; Austin, 1954), II, 2,093.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981, periodical, 1980/1981; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101225/m1/356/: accessed May 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.