Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Farmer Loses Case Against Keystone XL Pipeline

Photo by Terrence Henry/StateImpact Texas

Julia Trigg Crawford has several hundred acres of land in northeast Texas. And the Keystone XL pipeline will likely go through it.

The ruling came by iPhone.

Late Wednesday evening, Judge Bill Harris of the Lamar County Court at Law released his decision in the case of the North Texas farmer, Julia Trigg Crawford, versus the Keystone XL pipeline, owned and operated by the Canadian company TransCanada.

In an email to lawyers involved in the case, the judge announced he was granting TransCanada’s motion for summary judgement and denied Crawford’s plea. The message ended with “Sent from my iPhone.”

After Crawford refused to allow the pipeline on her land, TransCanada used eminent domain last fall to seize her property. She fought back in court, and the case finally came before Judge Harris a few weeks ago. In the meantime, construction began on the southern leg of the controversial pipeline.

“It is absolutely unbelievable to me eminent domain abuse continues in Texas given the revelations made during our court case,” Julia Trigg Crawford says in a statement.

“With every turn we found black holes of responsibility, endless loops of non-accountability, and the cart miles in front of the horse,” Crawford says. “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.”

Much of Crawford’s argument in the case centered around whether or not the pipeline qualified as a “common carrier,” a pipeline that would be in the public interest because it would be available “for hire” for other companies to use.

“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,” Crawford says in a statement.
“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.”

So will Crawford appeal? “It is certainly one of our options, likely a strong one,” she says in an email to StateImpact Texas. “I’m not done…”

“I feel a certain obligation to use what I’ve learned, and how much we’ve uncovered about this flawed process, to continue to champion for property rights,” Crawford tells StateImpact Texas.

TransCanada has not responded to requests for comment at the time of this post.*

Update: TransCanada says in a statement that “this ruling reaffirms that TransCanada has – and continues – to follow all state and federal laws and regulations as we move forward with the construction of the Gulf Coast Project” and says that most of the oil in the southern leg of the project will be from West Texas and Oklahoma as opposed to a “minority” of contracts from the “existing Keystone system.”

In the meantime, construction on the southern leg of the pipeline has begun, and TransCanada legally has the right to start digging on Crawford’s farm.

*Edited to add “at the time of this post.”


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