Keystone pipeline fails common-carrier test, court is told

Challenging Precedent

Accepting Holland’s “argument would rewrite the statutory condemnation procedures and turn more than a half a century of Texas jurisprudence on its head,” Tom Zabel, a TransCanada lawyer, said last month in court papers. Texas law was written to favor the development of the oil and gas industry, which needed condemnation powers to build pipelines, he wrote.

Blais, the law professor, said state eminent-domain laws historically favored pipelines “because there was so much oil that needed to come and go within the state.” The rules may be different for a foreign-owned pipeline transporting Canadian oil to refineries for export, she said.

The same argument is being pushed by Julia Trigg Crawford, another Texas landowner battling Keystone. She opposes TransCanada’s bid to cross her family farm near Paris, in northeast Texas.

State pipeline regulators admitted they didn’t have jurisdiction over Keystone in her case, “but the trial court allowed TransCanada to take the Crawfords’ private land anyway,” Wendi Hammond, Crawford’s lawyer, said in an e-mail.

Related Cases

Crawford has appealed that ruling to a different state appeals court in Texarkana. No hearing date has been set. Two more Texas landowners are fighting TransCanada on similar grounds.

Nacogdoches farmer Michael Bishop has appealed a county court ruling allowing the company to begin construction of the Keystone pipeline on his land, about 150 miles northeast of Houston. TransCanada fraudulently induced him to accept a settlement by telling him it had the right to condemn his land, Bishop claims.

The fourth landowner, known as Rhinoceros Venture Partners, is also fighting Keystone’s common-carrier status over the condemnation of property near the refining-industry complex in Beaumont, Keystone’s Gulf Coast terminus. The case was accepted by the state Supreme Court with no hearing date yet set.

The case is In re Texas Rice Land Partners Ltd., 09-12- 00484-cv, Court of Appeals, Ninth District of Texas (Beaumont).

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