Texas Farmer Wins Entry of Default in Keystone Lawsuit

A Texas farmer has won an entry of default against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which failed to respond to a federal lawsuit claiming it illegally granted environmental permits to TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline.

Michael Bishop, a farmer in Douglass, about 150 miles (241 kilometers) northeast of Houston, said yesterday he will ask U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Giblin, in Lufkin, Texas, to invalidate the pipeline’s permits and order the Army Corps to conduct public hearings that it skipped before issuing water-crossing permits to Keystone, which will transport Canadian tar-sands crude to refineries on the Texas Gulf coast.

“I’m going to ask the judge for everything I had in my original petition,” Bishop said in a phone interview. “I’m going to ask him to revoke the permit and effectively shut this pipeline down until they comply with the law.”

Bishop is one of the last Texas landowners still battling Calgary-based TransCanada, Keystone’s parent, in court over the company’s use of eminent domain laws to install the pipeline against the property owners’ wishes.

Political Pressure

“Public hearings should’ve been held in accordance with the law,” Bishop said in his original petition, filed in April. He claims the agency “yielded to political pressure and expedited the permit” in violation of federal environmental regulations.

The Army Corps filed an emergency motion today asking the judge to vacate the entry of default on claims the agency wasn’t properly notified of the lawsuit. The U.S. attorney in Lufkin should have been served with a copy of the lawsuit and wasn’t, according to a filing by government lawyers.

“When there is no proper service of process and an entry of default is made, the proper remedy is to vacate the entry of default,” the U.S. lawyers said in their filing.

Court records show Bishop served copies of his complaint on other government officials, including the U.S. Attorney General in Washington and the Army Corps at its headquarters, also in Washington.

Keystone XL’s northern leg has yet to obtain permission from U.S. President Barack Obama to cross the Canadian border, and construction on that stage of the 2,151-mile (3,461-kilometer) line hasn’t begun.

“This matter involves the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a nationwide permit that they granted for construction of the Gulf Coast Pipeline,” Shawn Howard, a TransCanada spokesman, said in an e-mail today. “Construction of this oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Houston area is almost completed, and we do not believe that this matter will negatively impact our ability to begin commercial service in late 2013.”

The company isn’t a formal party to the lawsuit.

The case is Bishop v. Bostick, 9:13-cv-00082, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Lufkin).