TransCanada takes possession of farmer’s land and announces the results of trial on the Canadian National Broadcasting Network … all before the presiding Judge makes a final ruling.
PARIS, TX – In an interview aired on Canadian National Broadcasting Network on Monday, newscasters read a statement from TransCanada stating that:
"..On the issue of the common carrier status the ruling by Judge Harris reaffirms that TransCanada is a common carrier."
In direct contrast with TransCanada’s public statement, last Friday in the Lamar County Courthouse, Judge Bill Harris announced first thing that there would not be a ruling in his courtroom.
The room was filled with statewide groups of all political persuasions supporting landowner Julia Trigg Crawford and her family against TransCanada which has announced plans to start building the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline on their property.
The Keystone XL is to carry tar sands crude from Cushing, Oklahoma to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.
Judge Harris has not ruled on the Crawford family’s case. TransCanada has not proven its common carrier status.
Even though TransCanada has not proven their common carrier status, they did receive a writ of possession at the last hearing.
This means that even though the judge has not yet ruled on their common carrier status, that they currently have legal possession of the Crawford family’s land and the legal right to begin trenching on their land at any point.
In Denbury Green vs. Texas Rice Land Farmers, the Texas Supreme Court recently upheld their ruling that a land owner has the legal right to challenge a pipeline company’s common carrier status. They also ruled that a pipeline company cannot conclusively acquire the right to condemn private property simply by checking the right boxes on a one-page form filed with the Railroad Commission.
While the Denbury Green ruling still stands, it remains true that there is no legal process or agency in Texas responsible for vetting a pipeline company’s claim of common carrier status before that company is given the legal right to take possession of a private citizen’s land.
Spokesperson for Independent Texans and landowner in Big Sandy, Texas (a town on the pipeline pathway) Jessica Ellison, said “It is outrageous that a private company doesn’t have to prove that they have the legal ability to take your land before they start moving in with bulldozers and pipelines. With TransCanada announcing a verdict before the judge rules, it seems like TransCanada keeps trying to put the cart before the horse and is ignoring the Supreme Court decision.”
Executive director of Public Citizen, Tom ‘Smitty’ Smith, said “The answers we need may not lie ultimately in this Judge’s decision; the answer may be an appeals court. The final outcome will also be laid at the foot of the Texas legislature to do something about this kind of abuse. We have already begun the process of pointing out the grave inequities of companies being able to walk into the Railroad Commission saying ‘trust us, we’re a common carrier,’ and then be granted eminent domain authority without the needed checks and balances or review by an authorized government agency. That needs to change with the next legislative session.”
Crawford’s hearing is the first case since the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the landowner’s right to protect private property from an illegal taking. Judge Harris is expected to make a ruling on the matter within days.
The Southern part of the Keystone XL Pipeline has been approved by the Obama administration and EPA. The company has started construction. The pipeline will go through east Liberty County.