Today Texas Rice Land Partners and other landowners went before a Jefferson County judge challenging TransCanada’s right to a writ of possession which would allow trenching to begin on land owned by the defendants including the James and David C. Holland and Latta families for the southern segment of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Tar Sands Blockade rallied in support of the constitutional rights of these landowners in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont, Texas. See additional coverage in E&E Publications – Energy Wire, Edmonton Sun, and the Beaumont Enterprise.
The Texas Rice Land Partners 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. The Holland family has between 50 and 60 oil and gas pipelines on their property. The only companies they have ever challenged over eminent domain include Denbury and TransCanada. And as if to add insult to injury TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipes roared by today’s rally on railroad cars.
Texas courts have long held that property owners could not challenge property takings by pipelines, but a recent, unanimous Texas Supreme Court decision, which highlighted the fight between Texas-based Denbury versus Texas Rice Land Partners changed that equation. In the Denbury Green court case, the justices unanimously ruled that the pipeline company had to prove it was meeting the state’s statutes and served a common good before it should be given the right to “take” private property. Indeed, the case proved that Plano, Texas-based Denbury was shipping carbon dioxide in its pipeline from one private affiliate to another voiding its claim to “common carrier” status under Railroad Commission and Texas Natural Resource Code guidelines. Though the high court has been urged to reconsider this case, the decision has been upheld.
The Texas Railroad Commission approved TransCanada’s permit to operate a pipeline as a common carrier, yet the agency has stated that it doesn’t review the applications for pipelines and doesn’t have the authority to determine common carrier status or give eminent domain permission to TransCanada. TransCanada will need to prove to the court that they meet the legal requirements and are transporting the product for the public good or for public use by complying with all applicable regulations.