Jerry Patterson Doesn’t Speak for Texas Landowners (Day 29)

Jerry Patterson, The Texas Land Commissioner, who is in charge of public lands in the state recently wrote an op-ed slamming out-of-state “eco-anarchists” in East Texas attempting to halt TransCanada from building the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. What he didn’t expect was the backlash from all the real Texans who opposed a muli-national corporation seizing Texas property for their profit.

Editors from across the state hit back against Patterson in defense of the landowners. Patrick Williams of the Dallas Observer wrote, “Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson certainly has some definite ideas about who’s a Texan, and his definition doesn’t include a whole swath of East Texas folks who oppose the Keystone Pipeline Gulf Coast Project… Those East Texas landowners whose property is being taken include plenty of Frito-pie eatin’, Roger Staubach-lovin’ Texans. The tiny towns of Reklaw, Alto and Gallatin, which have joined a Sierra Club lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers trying to halt the pipeline’s march, are in Texas. So are a whole bunch of citizens who fear that the pipeline, designed to carry corrosive oil-bearing tar sands at high pressure down from Canada to the Gulf, will leak and poison their land and water supply.”

Meanwhile, Tod Robertson of The Dallas Morning News had this to say: “I had expected a much more sophisticated and well-informed defense from Patterson. Instead, he resorted to a tired and inaccurate portrayal of the pipeline opponents as members of a lunatic fringe. ‘Eco-anarchist’ outsiders (Northern Yankee types) who just don’t get what Texans are all about. Patterson thinks Texans stand for land confiscation in the name of a foreign company’s profits. He thinks we would willingly give up our houses, front yards, grazing pastures and beaches in the name of a private company’s pursuit of profits.”

Much of Patterson’s comments stem from a recent incident as the editorial board of The Austin American-Statesman pointed out. “Eleanor Fairchild recently spent a night in jail. The 78-year-old grandmother was arrested after she stood with “eco-anarchists” against the Keystone XL pipeline’s construction in East Texas,” they wrote. “Fairchild’s contribution to eco-anarchy? Trespassing — on a piece of her own farm a Texas court condemned at pipeline builder TransCanada’s request.” In conclusion they wrote, “Still, there is no right more sacred to Texas landowners than the right to control their property as they see fit. The public good must occasionally trump individual rights, but Texas landowners concerned about a foreign company trampling their property rights aren’t anarchists, eco or otherwise. They’re proud residents of a state that values property rights – proud residents of a state that should guarantee their right to challenge a pipeline company’s attempts to take their land. And they should be able to do so without being called names by a state official.”

Actress and activist Daryl Hannah explained her involvement in Fairchild’s protest and why she think we all need to be concerned about TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, whether we live in Texas or not in an op-ed in The Guardian.

UPDATE 10/22/12 5:00PM: Two Letters to the Editor were printed today in the Dallas Morning News in response to the Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson’s op-ed on the blockade.

Jerry Patterson, you are an elected official and representative of the state of Texas where I have lived for the past 26 years. I must say that your statement regarding the individuals protesting the Keystone Pipeline construction project was one of the rudest rants I have ever seen by an elected official in his professional capacity.

Not only did both letters call Patterson’s comments an embarrassment, but they called him out for not representing the people of Texas as an elected official.

Although I do not consider myself part of the “lunatic fringe” and have never resorted to chaining myself to a tree, I am very concerned about the blatant disregard for environmental concerns by Texas public officials that continue to allow fracking and transporting large amounts of oil sands across private and public land.

As “land commissioner,” I would have hoped for a person who respects the land and Texas values and culture as he states he does.

UPDATE 10/24/12 8:00PM: The letters in defense of Tar Sands Blockade’s coalition of landowners, landowner advocates, and climate justice organizers just keep rolling in.

Lee Monroe, a retired NASA engineer, wrote an Op-Ed for a few days ago, too. He had a choice analysis when he stated:

Thus, Patterson’s label of “environmental lunatic fringe” for the participants of this movement refers to scientists as well as those not stuck in the Middle Ages who accept science, and to those concerned about the future of the planet and its habitability for humans and to those concerned about the use of eminent domain for a foreign company using American land not in the interest of Americans.

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