TransCanada Corp. asked the Texas Supreme Court to reject a farmer’s request to review condemnation rulings allowing the Keystone XL pipeline to cross her land against her will.
Julia Trigg Crawford has asked the state high court to review two lower-court decisions giving TransCanada the right to use eminent-domain statutes to install its 2,151-mile Canadian tar-sands pipeline across property her family has farmed for generations in northeastern Texas.
Crawford claims that TransCanada, a foreign company transporting oil produced out of state, doesn’t qualify as a common carrier under state law and isn’t entitled to condemn her land for private use. The lower courts agreed with the company that it did qualify.
“Crawford’s issues fly in the face of the Legislature’s active encouragement of a common-carrier pipeline system throughout Texas, not only to transport Texas production, but also to bring critical feedstock into Texas to fuel Texas refineries,” Tom Zabel, TransCanada’s lawyer, said in a filing urging the court to reject her challenge.
TransCanada has been trying for five years to win a presidential permit to build Keystone’s northern segment to connect oil sands in Alberta, Canada, with refineries along the Texas coast. President Barack Obama has yet to grant that permission, as environmentalists raised concerns that the diluted bitumen carried by the proposed pipeline poses special risks to sensitive farmlands and water supplies in its route.
In a final environmental review, the U.S. State Department on Jan. 31 found the Canada-U.S. oil pipeline wouldn’t greatly increase carbon emissions because the Albertan oil sands will probably be developed anyway. TransCanada agreed to reroute portions of the northern segment in Nebraska to accommodate environmental concerns.
Keystone’s southern segment, which connects Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Texas coast, received expedited approval from federal regulators and was completed last year. Oil began flowing through the line in January.
Crawford is one of a handful of Texas farmers fighting TransCanada’s use of eminent domain under various legal theories, which has sparked a statewide debate over property rights. None of the challengers has prevailed so far, and Crawford’s case is the second to reach the Texas Supreme Court.
TransCanada initially said in court filings that it didn’t think a formal answer to Crawford’s request for review was required. The company’s filing at the high court in Austin yesterday came after the justices expressed interest in hearing the landowner’s case.
The company urged the high court to refuse Crawford’s request, just as the justices declined last year to review a similar Keystone challenge from Rhinoceros Ventures. That group owns property near Beaumont, at the pipeline’s southern terminus.
The case is The Crawford Family Farm Partnership v. TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, 13-0886, Supreme Court of Texas.