Thursday, September 20, 2012

Private Company's Attempt To Invoke Eminent Domain Power To Wrestle Property Away From SE Texas Landowners Again At Issue

In Jefferson County, Texas, The Southeast Texas Record reports:

  • Southeast Texas landowners will have to wait two weeks before learning if a Jefferson County judge will grant a foreign company’s petition to condemn land for the construction of a crude oil pipeline.

    TransCanada Keystone Pipeline filed the petition for condemnation against Texas Rice Land Partners, James and David Holland and Mike and Walter Latta on June 28, 2011. According to its website, TransCanada seeks to build a pipeline to carry crude from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

    A hearing on whether to grant the petition was held Wednesday, Sept. 12, before Judge Tom Rugg, Jefferson County Court at Law No. 1. Rugg did not rule on the matter, but gave the parties until Sept. 21 to reply to a recently filed legal brief.

    While the hearing was in progress, several protestors stood outside the Jefferson County Courthouse to show their objection to the overuse of eminent domain. “It’s a concern of this court that the rights of landowners not be trampled,” Rugg said during the hearing. Rugg said he would craft a ruling on Sept. 24.

    During the hearing, Terry Wood, the attorney for the rice farmers, attempted to link the TransCanda case to a ruling made by the Texas Supreme Court last August denying Denbury Green common carrier status in a pipeline project of its own.

    In that opinion, the court stated “Private property is constitutionally protected, and a private enterprise cannot acquire condemnation power merely by checking boxes on a one page form.”

    TransCanada argued that the high court ruling did not apply, since Denbury Green’s pipeline would not have carried crude oil, but would have transported carbon dioxide (CO2) to be injected into oil reservoirs to recover additional crude oil.

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