Last year at a farm in outside of Beaumont, Dick O’Keefe sat at the kitchen table and talked about how a pipeline had come to his land. The company had claimed eminent domain powers. O’Keefe was not convinced.
“The pipeline companies should have to demonstrate that they have the right of eminent domain before they ever start beating the streets and handing out contracts,” O’Keefe said. “The threshold for them is extremely low.”
The Texas Supreme Court agrees with that assessment. In a 2011 decision, the court called the process giving eminent domain powers to pipeline companies nothing more than a “registration.” In the ruling the court said “No notice is given to affected parties. No hearing is held, no evidence is presented, no investigation is conducted.”
The conclusion: “Our Constitution demands far more.”
Today, the state’s oil and gas regulators are meeting to consider changing those rules. But getting there has been a long and windy road, as KUT’s Mose Buchele reports for State Impact Texas.