Texas Land Grab Galvanizes Keystone XL Opponents

It isn’t often that environmental groups and Tea Party organizations find themselves on the same side of a political cause, but the Keystone tar sands pipeline is bringing them together.

They agree that Canadian energy company TransCanada should not have the right to use eminent domain to seize land against property owners’ will to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

A loophole in Texas law allows it. On August 24, a Texas judge upheld TransCanada’s right to condemn a 50-foot strip across farmer Julia Trigg Crawford’s pasture for its pipeline.

To add insult to injury, the judge sent the 15-word ruling from his iPhone.

Texas oil and gas regulations allow common carriers – companies that let other companies pay published rates to use their pipelines – take over private land for that purpose. The outdated law is regulated by the state’s railroad commission.

All a company needs to do is complete a one-page form.

Landowners have been protesting the pipeline and some have been arrested. This week, s landowners protesting the eminent domain ruling in Texas were arrested when they attempted to block construction pipes.

The ruling has already been challenged successfully in the Texas Supreme Court, reports The New York TimesAn earlier ruling, written by Texas Supreme Court Justice Don R. Willett, states: “Private property is constitutionally protected and a private enterprise cannot acquire condemnation power merely by checking boxes on a one-page form.”

Crawford plans to appeal the ruling, and the case is making many other landowners sit up and take notice.

“We may have lost this one battle here in Paris, Texas, but we are far from done,” she says in a statement. “I will continue to proudly stand up for my own personal rights, the property rights of my family, and those of other Texans fighting to protect their land.”

The fate of the rest of the 1700-mile long pipeline, which would cut through America’s heartland,  is still up in the air. President Obama sent it back to the State Department for further environmental review before he decides whether to give it a permit. He gave the go-ahead for construction of the southern portion earlier this year.

“It was heartbreaking to hear a generational family farm like the Crawford’s can be taken away by a multinational corporation,” says blockader Audrey Steiner, a linguistic anthropologist from Austin. “I’m here to change the direction our country is taking.”

Republicans including newly anointed Presidential candidate Mitt Romney vow to push the pipeline through Congress at all costs and have so far unsucessfully attached it to a slew of bills. Romney says he’ll approve it as one of his first acts as President. 

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