(Paris, TX - August 23, 2012) Today, Lamar County Judge Bill Harris ruled in favor of TransCanada, the Canadian company building the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, allowing them to act as common carrier and giving them the ability to forcibly take private land from Texas farmer, Julia Trigg Crawford, and any Texans in its path, using eminent domain, despite the lack of evidence that TransCanada meets the statutory requirements of a common carrier whose pipeline is a legitimate public use.
"Since the Texas Railroad Commission determined way back in 2008 that it had no jurisdiction over TransCanada's interstate pipeline, it simply defies logic that TransCanada is allowed to take private citizens' land under a Texas law that requires a pipeline operator to subject itself to the Commission's jurisdiction," said Wendi Hammond, attorney for landowner. "The Texas Supreme Court has repeatedly held that if there is an incident of doubt regarding the power of eminent domain authority, then a court must rule in favor of the landowner. Unfortunately, this judge failed to do so."
"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 poorly equipped to assess such weighty legal questions. These courts lack the resources to properly consider the complex and voluminous evidence assembled by multi-billion 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 to use eminent domain to condemn Texans lands," said Tom "Smitty" Smith of Public Citizen.
"The Texas Supreme Court was clear in Denbury 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's 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. 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).