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.