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Posts Tagged ‘Eminent Domain’

On Wednesday, February 19, 2014, Nebraska’s recently passed law allowing TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline Co. to proceed with construction across Nebraska was declared unconstitutional and void.

The ruling came from Lancaster County District Court Judge Stephanie Stacy. The Court ruled for three Nebraska landowners who challenged the law. The ruling includes a permanent injunction preventing Gov. Dave Heineman, and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality from taking any further action to authorize or advance the pipeline under the unconstitutional law.

Judge Stacy concluded the law unconstitutionally conferred upon the Governor of Nebraska the authority to approve a crude oil pipeline route, and to authorize the crude oil pipeline company to exercise the power of eminent domain against Nebraska landowners.

Siding with three landowner plaintiffs, the District Court concluded that under Nebraska’s State Constitution, exclusive regulatory control over pipeline companies like TransCanada Keystone XL must be exercised by the Nebraska Public Service Commission, and cannot be given to the Governor.

Judge Stacy also concluded that TransCanada was not empowered to take land from Nebraska property owners.

The court’s action effectively rescinds Gov. Heineman’s notification to Pres. Barack Obama that Nebraska legal procedures had been satisfied.

Dave Domina, the lawyer who handled the case for the landowners summarized the Ruling: “Under the Court’s ruling, TransCanada has no approved route in Nebraska. TransCanada is not authorized to condemn the property against Nebraska landowners. The pipeline project is at standstill in this State.”

A copy of the Court’s Opinion is found HERE: http://www.dominalaw.com/documents/LB-1161-Court-Order-Feb-19-2014.pdf

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This coming weekend is a busy one for folks concerned about a variety of issues around climate change and eminent domain focusing around the Texas leg of the Keystone XL and other tar sands pipelines.

Saturday, September 21, 2013 is a national day of action, some of the events happening in Texas:

  • San Antonio – 10am to noon
    San Pedro Springs Park, 1415 San Pedro Avenue, San Antonio, TX
    Part of the 350.org national “Draw the Line” day of action, with Energia Mia, Alamo Chapter of the Sierra Club, Esperanza Center, the People’s Power Coalition, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, Bexar County Green Party, Texas Indigenous Council, and others will gather at the park to voice opposition to tar sands. (Pinata burst at 11 am)
  • Houston
    1:00 pm – Corner of Post Oak Blvd, and Westheimer, in Houston, TX and
    2:00 pm – Hermann Park, at the Street Theater.
  • Dallas
    9:30 am – White Rock Lake (West Lawther between Fisher and Branchfield), Dallas, TX.  Lake spruce up activities
    7:00 pm to Sunset – a roadside rally and candlelight vigil
  • Austin – Rally at the Texas Capitol

Click here to find out more about these actions and to locate actions in other communities.

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UPDATE

NPR’s State Impact takes a look at where landowners stand against pipeline companies’ claims that they have the right to take land through eminent domain.

Click here to read part one of a three-part series devoted to looking at efforts to overhaul eminent domain in Texas and what may come next for landowners, pipeline companies, and the oil and gas industry.

Click here to read part two of this three-part series.

Click here to read the third and final part of this series of articles on pipelines, eminent domain and Texas courts

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Julia Trigg Crawford, a Texas landowner fighting a legal battle with TransCanada over the rights to her family’s farm, will be in Washington on Thursday to testify in front of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice during a hearing on the Private Property Rights Protection Act. Ms. Crawford will be discussing her personal experience with the use of eminent domain by a foreign company, as it is being used by the Keystone XL pipeline.

The bill filed in the 112th Congress as H.R.1433 can be read here.

The hearing will begin at 9am ET on Thursday and may be covered on C-Span in case you want to catch Julia’s testimony.

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We Texans and Public Citizen  Support Crawford Family as Legal Action Continues Against Keystone XL Southern Segment – #NoKXL

Yesterday, Landowner Julia Trigg Crawford and her attorney Wendi Hammond announced that they have filed their appeal against TransCanada with the 6th Judicial Court in Texarkana.  The brief disputes TransCanada’s attempt at taking Crawford’s property on the basis that TransCanada has yet to prove the company is a common carrier, but is instead a private foreign company utilizing its pipeline for private gain.

“Our appellate brief is now in front the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and we are confident this panel of experienced judges will give all the issues the thoughtful consideration and thorough review they deserve,” noted landowner Julia Trigg Crawford.  “Since the lower court’s ruling against us in August we’ve worked diligently to elevate the dialogue around property rights and eminent domain abuse.”

“Since before 1920, the Texas legislature wisely limited the enormous power of eminent domain authority to a common carrier subject to the Texas Railroad Commission’s (RRC) jurisdiction and other legal requirements. In the Crawford family’s case, the RRC admitted it does not have jurisdiction over TransCanada’s pipeline, but the trial court allowed TransCanada to take the Crawford’s private land anyway,” commented Hammond, Crawford family farm attorney. “This decision highlights a serious problem, not just for the Crawfords, but for many families across Texas.  Now this important matter will be decided by a higher court.”

Groups including We Texans and Public Citizen are supporting Crawford and her family in their continuing resolve to pursue this landowner’s case to a higher court.  The groups view this precedent setting case as a private company attempting to take land for private use and foreign profit.

Debra Medina, executive director of We Texans, applauded the Crawford family’s courage in continuing their opposition to the taking of their property.  “We agree with the Crawford family in believing that there has been an erroneous ruling against them and hope that the appellate court will right that wrong.  In doing so, the court can protect not only the Crawford Family farm, but also set a precedent that will ensure the law is followed and all private property in Texas is duly protected.”

“What’s at stake here is whether the state should allow a public agency to allow condemnation for private gain. The Crawford case is emblematic of the failure of the Texas Railroad Commission to effectively ensure that companies doing business in Texas are indeed a common carrier,” commented Tom Smitty Smith of Public Citizen.  “The State has laid this burden of proving up common carrier upon landowners such as the Crawfords, while the proof should be incumbent upon those who want to business here in Texas. The entire process needs to be overhauled.”

“The Railroad Commission allowed TransCanada to have the status of a common carrier, yet the agency has stated that it doesn’t not have the authority to give eminent domain powers to TransCanada,” added Smith.  “TransCanada has yet to prove to the court that they are transporting the product for the public good or for the public for hire as required by law.”

“Currently, there is a loophole in Texas law that allows a company to simply check a box on a one page form at the Railroad Commission that allows companies to declare themselves a common carrier without any checks and balances,” noted Rita Beving, North Texas Public Citizen organizer.  “Last summer we started a dialogue with the Texas Land & Resource Management Committee regarding this problem.  We are hoping the matter of common carrier and eminent domain gets rectified during this year’s legislative session.”

“I’ve testified to legislative subcommittees at our state Capitol, shared my story with the Sunset Commission in their review of the embattled Texas Railroad Commission, and traveled to Washington, D.C. twice to speak to governmental agency representatives and support groups,” Crawford added.  “At the heart of this issue is the fact the Texas Railroad Commission has seemingly abandoned Texas landowners.  By their own admission, they are aware that companies use the T-4 form to demonstrate to the public that the company is operating as a common carrier pipeline with eminent domain authority when, in fact, the RRC operating permit provides no evidence of that fact at all.”

“What was once just the voice of Texas landowners is now a national issue, with all eyes upon Texas and how our Legislature will step up to repair this grossly flawed land condemnation process,” Crawford concluded. “I stand at the ready to continue shining a light on what’s really happening on the ground to Texas landowners as we protect our land, and we look forward to a positive outcome in our appeal.”

TransCanada has initiated construction of the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline along its 485-mile trek from Cushing to the Texas coast. TransCanada will pump Canadian tar sands crude or Dilbit to refineries on the Gulf coast.  The northern segment of the Keystone XL awaits approval by the State Department for its presidential permit.

In the meantime Enbridge, TransCanada’s Canadian competitor, has begun surveying for an additional twin line to the existing Seaway pipeline near the DFW area.  Both Enbridge’s 36-year old repurposed Seaway pipeline and the new twin line will carry tar sands from Cushing to the coast.  The dual Enbridge lines are expected to exceed Keystone’s capacity with 850,000 barrels per day of tar sands crude.

Enbridge is currently responsible for the largest and most expensive onshore spill in history.  The Michigan spill occurred in July 2010 carrying tar sands crude through a 43-year old repurposed line.  Two years and more than $850 million later, the spill is still being cleaned up on the Kalamazoo River.

“Landowner fights such as that of the Crawford family with TransCanada have sparked a new battle on a whole new front with another Canadian company,” Beving concluded.  “Many of us are now getting calls from landowners now worried about Enbridge, which also plans to carry dangerous Dilbit crude through its pipelines from Cushing to the coast.”

Click here to read a copy of the brief.

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UPDATE 10/2/2012 -

The court in Beaumont has given TransCanada the right to begin building portions of the Keystone XL Pipeline through Johnson County.

County Court at Law Judge Tom Rugg Sr. did blocked access to one parcel of disputed land until the company meets legal requirements giving proper notice to all parties.

Earlier, Rugg made clear that he believes Texas law required him to grant a writ of possession to TransCanada to construct parts of the politically controversial pipeline to carry Canadian tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. He added that technical issues needed to be resolved first that his further ruling determined that TransCanada file two necessary surety bonds required by law of $20,000. He ruled. “As those bonds have two sufficient sureties, the statutory requirements for the issuance of writs of possession are now met.”

In a central matter in the case, Rugg said a different court would need to determine whether TransCanada is a common carrier with the power to seize land under eminent domain law.

UPDATE:  While Judge Rugg expressed regret for the lack of clarity from the higher courts. “I’m left with no guidance from Denbury,” he said.  He, nevertheless promised to rule by Sept. 24th.  We will let you know as soon as we hear about the ruling.

KEYSTONE PIPELINE V. TEXAS RICE FARMERS SET FOR HEARING – Must TransCanada prove common carrier status before trenching begins?  That is the question Polly Hughes of the Texas Energy Report poses in the article reprinted below.

A battle over the right of pipelines to seize private land heads to court again Wednesday when the Texas Rice Land Partners challenge TransCanada’s use of Texas eminent domain law.

TransCanada has begun construction of the southern leg of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to Texas Gulf Coast refineries. The pipeline, which will carry oil sands, also referred to as tar sands, has stirred controversy with environmentalists who say a spill of the heavier diluted bitumen would be far more treacherous for waterways and aquifers than spills of ordinary crude oil.

“The Keystone XL crosses and exposes threats to water resources for the Carrizo- Wilcox Aquifer, which feeds and supplies water, drinking and agricultural resources for up to 10 million Texans,” Chris Wilson, an anti-tar sands activist opposing TransCanada’s pipeline told members of the Texas Railroad Commission Tuesday.

At issue in the Jefferson County Court at Law case in Beaumont is whether TransCanada has a right to take possession and begin trenching on land before the company proves its has eminent domain rights, according to the activist group known as TURF, Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom.

The defendants in the case, James and David C. Holland and the Mike Latta Family, make up the Texas Rice Land Partners who sued the Denbury Green Pipeline Co. over its right to seize land under eminent domain law and won at the Texas Supreme Court. The courtunanimously ruled that before the company could seize private property and claim eminent domain rights, it needed to prove it was a common carrier serving a legitimate public use. Merely self-declaring common carrier status by checking a box on a one-page administrative form at the Railroad Commission was not enough.

Debra Medina, a former Republican gubernatorial candidate who has taken up the eminent domain battle with parties opposing TransCanada, said the defendants will ask the court to require the company to prove its common carrier status and right to use eminent domain before it grants a writ of possession allowing trenching to begin.

She said 60 pipelines cross the Holland Family’s land, but only two – Denbury Green and TransCanada – have resorted to using eminent domain law rather than reach a mutually satisfactory financial agreement with the family.

“This landowner wants a fair price,” she said, adding that she thinks the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling means the burden of proof is on TransCanada and not the landowner.

Ramrodded by veteran reporter Polly Hughes, the Texas Energy Report’s Energy Buzz specializes in what is happening on the ground in Texas energy ranging from dedicated coverage of the Texas regulatory agencies to battles in the Legislature that affect the future of the industry.

Copyright September 11, 2012, Harvey Kronberg, www.texasenergyreport.com, All rights are reserved.  Reposted by TexasVox.org with permission of the Texas Energy Report.

We will report on the outcome of this court case when it becomes available.

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Wednesday evening, Lamar County Court at Law Judge Bill Harris sent an email from his iPhone (complete with new internet slang – MSJ and NEMSJ) ruling in favor of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, allowing them to act as common carrier and giving them the right to condemn land for use by a pipeline.

Dear Counsel,
My rulings as follows:
Transcanada’s MSJ is GRANTED (that’s internet slang for Motion for Summary Judgment)
Transcanada’s NEMSJ is GRANTED (I don’t know what NEMSJ is)
Crawford’s Plea to the Jurisdiction is DENIED

“The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that taking private property for the private use by a pipeline company requires proof that it will serve some common good – and that can’t be accomplished by merely filling out a form. We believe the judge made a number of mistakes and we will appeal. The supreme court has said that if there is any doubt that a pipeline is a common carrier, the judge has to rule against the pipeline company and he failed to do that,” said Wendi Hammond, the attorney for the landowner.

I guess what this particular judge is trying to tell us is what’s good for oil and gas is good for Texas – period.

“We may have lost this battle here in Paris, Texas, but we are far from done,” said Julia Trigg Crawford, landowner. “I will continue to proudly stand up for my own personal rights, the property rights of my family and those of other Texans fighting to protect their land. The Crawfords, and those who bravely stand with us, have plenty of courage to continue this fight, no matter what it takes.”

Read Julia’s impassioned statement below:

Anyone following this case knows my family and I were in it to win, so of course we are incredibly disappointed in today’s ruling….Disappointed that Judge Harris wholly dismissed our entire case with a 15 word ruling sent from his iPhone…  Disheartened that Texas landowners must still challenge oil corporations in court on what should be State-level permitting issues….and Disturbed that a foreign corporation like TransCanada is allowed to hide behind the skirt of the Texas Railroad Commission and its Common Carrier rubber stamp.

It is absolutely unbelievable to me eminent domain abuse continues in Texas given the revelations made during our court case.   With every turn we found black holes of responsibility, endless loops of (non)accountability, and the cart miles in front of the horse.  The Texas Railroad Commission says they have no power over eminent domain, yet turns a blind eye when pipelines under their jurisdiction state they indeed get the power from the Commission.  The Texas Supreme Court ruled in Denbury Green that “once a landowner challenges…., the burden falls upon the pipeline company to establish its common-carrier bona fides if it wishes to exercise the power of eminent domain”.  So we asked TransCanada to produce their tariff rate schedule, a requirement of all Common Carriers and therefore part of proving the right of eminent domain. TransCanada’s attorney refused to provide anything, responding in court that tariffs will be provided “about the time it gets ready to transport product on the line”.  That means they can’t even produce this proof they qualify as a Common Carrier until after the land is seized and the pipeline built.  Furthermore, the Writ of Possession was granted by the Court and served on us before the ruling was even made on whether TransCanada can legally take our land. There is no question the process is riddled with loopholes and flaws, and Big Oil certainly wants to keep it this way.

Somehow, someway, things must change.  If the courts will not address the problem, we will use our voices and votes to bring about change, and we will champion the cause with those who create the laws. Fortunately the dialogue in Austin has already begun, and we are deeply involved.  As our more enlightened State leaders address the issues with open minds, they admit there are still problems with the eminent domain process.  Thankfully they have begun the steps to shepherd change.

We may have lost this one battle here in Paris, Texas, but we are far from done.  I will continue to proudly stand up for my own personal rights, the property rights of my family, and those of other Texans fighting to protect their land. Winston Churchill once said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”.  The Crawfords, and those who bravely stand with us, have plenty of courage to continue this fight, no matter what it takes.

Julia Trigg Crawford
Farm Manager, Red’Arc Farm
Direct, Texas

Tea Party leaders and environmentalists alike, but for different reasons, share the Crawfords’ disappointment with this ruling.

“Judge’s Harris disappointing decision today further highlights the vulnerable and precarious position that Texas landowners are in,” said Debra Medina, former Republican candidate for Governor. “These cases are often argued in county courts that are poorly equipped to assess such weighty legal questions.  These courts lack the resources to properly consider the complex and voluminous evidence assembled by multibillion dollar corporations.”

“These are pipelines carrying poisons, not for oil independence in our country, but for export, from a foreign land, through our pipelines, to a port that’s going to ship them to foreign lands. These aren’t common carriers for the common good of Texans — this is a pipeline designed to speed oil through Texas. There are no on or off ramps to this pipeline in Texas and as a result it should not have been permitted, implying they had the use of eminent domain to condemn Texans’ lands,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen.

“The Texas Supreme Court was clear in the Denbury ruling that private companies have to prove their project qualifies as a true ‘public use’ before it can exercise eminent domain. We’re disappointed in the Judge’s decision, but we’re confident that the Crawford family farm will eventually prevail. This decision puts the onus on the Texas legislature to remedy the outrageous eminent domain abuse taking place in our state,” said Terri Hall, Director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom. “The time for talk is over. Texans are losing their land because of poor oversight and the legislature’s refusal to address the heart of the problem. Texans aren’t going to accept the crumbs we’ve been handed, cloaked as eminent domain reform. It’s time to get serious before irreparable harm is needlessly inflicted upon Texans.”

Recently, the Texas House Land and Resource Management Committee met at the Capitol to hear invited testimony from Crawford and other interested parties regarding the dilemma of industries self-proclaiming they are common carriers with no review from any state agency as to whether a company is truly a common carrier or not. The House Energy Management Committee has also held hearing on pipeline safety issues.

Linda Curtis, director of Independent Texans, noted, “Ms. Crawford’s case is emblematic of the continuing struggle of Texas landowners being tread upon by a private company taking land for private use, and foreign profit.  TransCanada has yet to provide any evidence that they have the legal authority to seize property in Texas.”

“TransCanada used the Commission’s T-4 permit as an authorization to take Texans’ land for a private for-profit, foreign pipeline project.  There was no vetting or review by the Commission of a pipeline company’s self-designation as a common carrier and the commission says that it has no control over eminent domain.  The legislature needs to fix this mess and assure that landowners’ rights and the environment are protected,” said Chris Wynnyk Wilson of the Stop Tar Sands Oil Pipelines (STOP).

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According to the Fort Worth Weekly, the Keystone pipeline company wants to run roughshod over Texas landowners – and maybe Texas law.

Fort Worth Weekly Cover 4-11-12

Julia Trigg Crawford on the Cover of Fort Worth Weekly

When someone from the Canandian company, TransCanada, asked the Crawford family in 2008 about an easement to lay pipeline across their farm on the Texas bank of the Red River, the family wasn’t interested.  When they said “no”, as they had for previous pipeline requests, Transcanada surprised them by condemning the land it wanted.  Since then, the Crawfords have been in a legal battle with this multi-national corporation questioning their claim that TransCanada has the right to take, by eminent domain if necessary, any land they want to lay pipe on.

Click here to read the full story from the Fort Worth Weekly about Julia Trigg Crawford’s battle to keep the foreign company TransCanada from siezing part of her land.

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Rally in Paris Texas
Citizens gather on the steps of the Lamar County Courthouse in support of Julia Triggs Crawford before the TransCanada suit to dismiss her Temporary Restraining Order is heard.

Last week, local citizens from areas bordering the path of the proposed Texas leg of the TransCanada tar sands pipeline, rallied in front of the Lamar County Courthouse where a hearing was scheduled, pitting the Canadian corporation, TransCanada, against a local landowner, Julia Triggs Crawford. The crowd then packed the courtroom leaving standing room only.

Ms. Crawford had asked for a standstill order while in negotiation on her eminent domain case, but TransCanada’s representatives told her they wanted the right to start trenching on her property as early as March 1st.

On Monday, February 13th, Ms. Crawford obtained a restraining order against TransCanada to protect her property.  Within 24 hours, TransCanada in turn filed for the restraining order to be dissolved.  The hearing was held in the Lamar County courthouse  in Paris, Tx on Friday, Feb. 17 starting at 10 a.m. before Judge Bill Harris.

Rally in Paris, Texas on the steps of the Lamar County Courthouse (video by David McFatridge)

In the hearing on Friday, the attorneys for TransCanada displayed what many called an arrogance at the thought of one landowner and her rights, or even the archaeological significance of the property as a means of stopping their project, saying “We will not let one landowner stop this multi-billion dollar pipeline,” and again saying ““They can have their day in court, but they won’t stop this pipeline.”

In the end, Judge Harris handed the Paris area landowner a temporary victory in setting a date of April 30, 2012 for a jury trial to hear her case against TransCanada and their efforts to steal her land away from her for the Keystone Pipeline.

At a rally in Austin, in support of Ms. Crawford’s efforts, the organizations are Independent Texans, Texans for Accountable Government and Texans Uniting for Reform spoke up about the bullying tactics used by TransCanada.

“Everyone wants to know, by what authority or permit does this private, foreign company have the right to condemn property and start construction? We are going to tell TransCanada, don’t mess with Texans, don’t mess with our landowners,” commented Linda Curtis of Independent Texans.

TransCanada’s Keystone XL permit was denied by the president, so the groups and landowners question by what permit or authority does TransCanada take property or start any kind of tar sand pipeline construction?   TransCanada, despite the denial of a permit, continues to bully landowners and execute eminent domain condemnation proceedings. Groups are questioning this company’s right to take land via eminent domain.  The Railroad Commission has stated that it does not have the authority to grant the power of  eminent domain to TransCanada.  Ms. Crawford has also challenged the company’s common carrier status.

Ms. Crawford’s case is emblematic of the continuing struggle along with more than 80 cases in Texas where TransCanada, a foreign pipeline company, has condemned or threatened to condemn private property belonging to Texans.

“This is a private company taking land for private use and foreign profit.  They are cloaking themselves in common carrier regalia and exercising eminent domain against Texas citizens but there is no evidence that they have the legal authority to seize property in Texas,” noted Debra Medina former gubernatorial candidate and director of We Texans.

“We are telling this private, foreign company  ‘Don’t Mess with Texas’”,  “Don’t bully Texans, putting our land and our water at risk,” while this foreign company continues to masquerade as a common carrier.

This is the complete event video of protest and press conference by several Texas organizations representing landowners to show their support of Julia Trigg Crawford of Lamar County whose property has been condemned by TransCanada for their XL pipeline even though the federal permit has been denied.  The organizations are Independent Texans, Texans for Accountable Government and Texans Uniting for Reform

Click here to read the Texas Attorney General’s landowners bill of rights in any attempt by the government or a private entity to take your property.

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Energy companies are increasingly suing South Texas landowners as they work to build pipelines to accommodate surging oil and gas production.

The question isn’t whether a company can route a pipeline across a property owner’s land.  Pipeline companies, under Texas law, wield the power of eminent domain and can use it to acquire an easement even if the property owner opposes it.  But landowners can negotiate for compensation and when those talks break down, companies can file suit.  Actually, all the companies have to do is make and offer and if the landowner doesn’t accept, then they can file suit (really hardly a negotiation, more like a shakedown).

In 2011, pipeline companies have filed at least 184 lawsuits against landowners in four South Texas counties, but concerns about pipelines snaking across your property whether you want them to or not should be of concern to more than South Texans.  Folks in the DFW area have already expressed concern over the probability of increase pipelines in their region with the every expanding fracking industry.  And many property owners along a proposed tar sands pipeline from Canada to Houston have already experienced heavy-handed treatment from the pipeline company, even though many of the needed permits are not yet in place.

So while fracking or tar sands mining may not be happening in your backyard, it doesn’t mean that these activities won’t affect you directly.

If you want to read more about the proposed tar sands pipeline and the proposed pipeline routes, click here.

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keystone 500 barrel spill

Spill Site 2 Days Later (click to enlarge)

On Saturday, May 7 the Keystone pipeline had a major rupture and spill near Cogswell, North Dakota spewing 500 barrels of oil in a geyser twice the height of the surrounding trees (about 60 feet). This pipeline is owned by TransCanada, the same company proposing to build the Keystone XL pipeline (an extension of the Keystone pipeline) down through Oklahoma and Texas.

Here is a video from WDAY Channel 6 out of Fargo, North Dakota covering the spill. The pipeline spill was the lead story.

What this video doesn’t cover is that this was not ordinary crude oil, but rather a far more toxic and dangerous substance called “tar sands” oil, mined in the vast tar sands strip mines in Alberta, Canada. It should also be remembered that this pipeline is only a year old (more or less brand new) and has already had 10 other “small” spills. Such a deplorable record should be sending off massive alarm bells for the expansion project proposed for Texas.

TransCanada is a private, foreign (Canadian) company which has been granted, for some reason, powers of eminent domain throughout the US – including Texas. This company has been using the threat of this power to bully landowners into signing contracts they do not want to sign. The permit for their expansion project, the Keystone XL, is still pending at the State Department. In light of this recent spill there is no way the state department should consider granting this irresponsible and reckless company the ability to further endanger the lives and well-being of Texans and US citizens.

As Alex Moore with Friends of the Earth recently stated, “Nobody should have to wake up on a Saturday morning to the sight of oil spraying 60 feet into the air near her home.”

For more information on tar sands and what makes it the “dirtiest oil on the planet,” see some of our previous blog posts on the subject:

Tailing Pond Duck Deaths

Stop Tarsands Oil Pipeline

Voices From Texas Landowners

Stop TransCanada

Bad Faith Tactics

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In a three part series, Elizabeth McGowan of Solve Climate News writes how some U.S. landowners along the Keystone XL route say they are being ‘pushed around’ and ‘intimidated’ by TransCanada, an accusation the energy giant denies.  To read Ms. McGowan’s story “Is Keystone XL Impervious to Lawsuits?” click on the parts below.

Part I, Holding Out in Oklahoma - Monday, February 28th

Part II, Defining Good Faith – Tuesday, March 1st

Part III, Why Is TransCanada a ‘Common Carrier? - Wednesday, March 2nd

This should be of concern to Texans along the Keystone XL pipeline proposed route as Texas lawmakers this session are considering emergency legislation that would strengthen the position of private companies in eminent domain cases.  If the legislation is passed (SB 18 – click here to read a copy of the legislation), we could see a whole network of new pipelines snaking across areas of northeast and east Texas as natural gas companies expand their fracking projects and the Canadian Keystone XL company pushes the tar sands pipeline from Western and Central Canada, down through the middle of the country on its way to crude refineries in the Houston area.

Check out our earlier blog, Eminent Domain: Coming to Your Town Soon? , to see what is happening in Texas that could impact Texas landowners.

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The Texas Supreme Court, the state’s highest civil court, will hear a controversial case over whether a company that plans to build pipeline to carry carbon dioxide and natural gas from Louisiana to site south of Houston qualifies as a “common carrier,”  giving it the power of eminent domain. That means if they want to come through your property and you don’t want to sign the offer they make on your property, they can begin condemnation procedures to just take your property for what they think it is worthAnd that just ain’t right.

The case is scheduled for oral arguments before the Texas Supreme Court on April 19th.  At issue is whether the  Jefferson County trial court ruled incorrectly when it said Denbury was a common carrier (meaning besides the company’s private, for-profit use, the line would be available for public use as well) and therefore could force private landowners to sell right-of-way so the 320-mile stretch of pipe could be built.

The appeals court upheld the trial court.

The industry is watching the case closely, and so should you, as lawmakers this session are considering emergency legislation that would strengthen the position of private property owners in eminent domain cases.  If the Supreme Court rules in the company’s favor and the legislation is passed, we could see a whole network of new pipelines snaking across areas of northeast and east Texas as natural gas companies expand their fracking projects and with a Canadian company pushing the tar sands pipeline from Western and Central Canada, down through the middle of the country on its way to crude refineries in the Houston area.  And they’ll be singing:

So Lord help the sister, who comes between me and my pipeline terminus.

To see the court documents filed in the case, click here.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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TransCanada has filed more than a dozen lawsuits to condemn land along the route of its Keystone XL oil pipeline in western South Dakota, trying to force the 47 percent of the landowners who hadn’t signed easement agreements along the states portion of the Keystone XL route, even though it hasn’t received the federal permit it needs to go ahead with the project.

The lawsuits come at a time of growing opposition to the 1,660-mile pipeline, which would carry oil from tar sands fields in Alberta, Canada, and pass through several states, including South Dakota, on its way to terminals on the Gulf Coast. Environmentalists have joined landowners to lobby against the project all the way down the route, from Montana to Texas.

Because the project would cross an international border, TransCanada also needs a presidential permit from the State Department. The decision, which hinges on the results of an amended environmental impact statement, will be forthcoming within weeks and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is inclined to grant it.

Keystone Pipeline Route

Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline Route

Landowners in Texas along the pipeline who haven’t been happy with their dealings with Keystone XL have already received letters threatening eminent domain action and Senators Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) and Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) recently filed a bill (SB 18) that appears to be favorable to pipeline projects in their use of eminent domain and is moving through the legislature quickly.  Citizens in the Barnett Shale region have already begun to express concerns about how this might affect their property rights.  Those along the Keystone XL pipeline route, might want to keep an eye on this bill too.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas

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STOP is a coalition of landowners in Oklahoma and Texas who have united to voice their opposition to the proposed Keystone tar sands oil pipeline. These landowners oppose this pipeline for a variety of reasons but they share a concern of how this pipeline will affect their own and their children’s future.

John Tutor fears the impact of soiling a local preserve that boasts black bears and songbirds for scout groups and the Audubon Society; others, the addition of more especially dirty oil to the global energy market rather than clean technologies that don’t destroy tracts of land thousands of square miles in scope. Many of these citizens have received notices threatening the use of eminent domain.

In a previous post you can see the Thorntons’ talk about how Keystone has sent them multiple notices with an initial offer of about $2,200 per acre. This is about 20% of what they value the land they had hoped to develop. Keystone is using eminent domain to force landowners to sell their land at low prices. STOP is an organization for those people who would not like to see this dangerous and dirty pipeline cross through their land. David Daniel and Betty S Vaughn Scott don’t want the generations following them to lose claim to pristine Texas forest in exchange for a dirty pipeline and the inherent risk that comes with piping hundreds of thousands of toxic material at high pressure every day.

This pipeline is different from all the other pipelines. This pipeline will transport hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil that has a carbon footprint of over 3 times that of conventional oil. Tar sands oil extraction has already destroyed vast amounts of land in Alberta and it is set to become an area the size of Florida. We can’t let it endanger Texas’ forests either. If this pipeline has affected you or if you are just a concerned citizen in the area of the pipeline STOP can help you raise your voice in opposition to this pipeline.

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