Green Right Now Reports
For those of you who’ve been following the Keystone XL pipeline, which will carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to Houston-area refineries, you know that the Oklahoma/Texas portion of the 1,700 mile route is nearly fait accompli.
The Obama Administration approved the southern section of the controversial pipeline late last year, clearing the way for construction, even as the upper portion remains in limbo, still needing a federal permit. That segment of the pipeline, from Montana through Nebraska, was held up when Nebraskans protested the pipeline’s threat to the Ogallala Aquifer. The initial planned path of the pipeline traversed a delicate section of the Sand Hills, where the aquifer is close to the surface and would be highly vulnerable should a leak occur.
Landmovers arrived at Crawford’s farm this week.
Those opposing the pipeline have pointed out that a pipeline installed by the same operator, TransCanada, has leaked a dozen times since it opened in 2010.
The recent spill in Mayflower, AR, of a different pipeline carrying heavy oil from the same region in Canada, has raised worries.
Keystone XL opponents say the Mayflower and other spills, such as one near Kalamazoo, MI, show that thick tar sands oil, which is mixed with chemicals to dilute it for transport, is difficult to clean up. They also contend that the corrosiveness of the diluted bitumen tar sands, known as “dilbit,” makes leaks more likely.
Environmentalists oppose the pipeline because it will pump vast amounts of fossil fuels out of the Canadian tar sands region into use around the world, raising greenhouse gases and worsening climate change.
Along the pipeline route, landowners have raised another question: Does or should a foreign company have the right to claim U.S. land for its own use?
TransCanada maintains it does have that right, because the U.S. will be a recipient of the increased oil on the market. (How much of the tar sands oil will be sold in the US, versus how much will simply pass through to lucrative foreign markets, remains a contested point. Some of the oil, according to the State Department, will be delivered to the Midwest.)
Opponents, however, question how much standing the Canadian pipeline operator has in the US, and particularly the Lone Star state, which brings us to one especially tenacious opponent, Julia Trigg Crawford, a Texas landowner who has challenged TransCanada’s right to claim her land.
Before construction of the pipeline began, TransCanada, like all the oil and gas companies that came before, had to apply for “common carrier” status in order to get clearance to operate in Texas. This was no problem, because the Texas Railroad Commission typically grants “common carrier” status requests.
Julia Trigg Crawford turned down a $20,000 offer for the Keystone XL easement, deciding instead to sue TransCanada.
This permit essentially says that an operator can claim the land they need through eminent domain (also known as condemnation) because they’re carrying fuel or electricity to be used by the public or the commons. The product will benefit the public.
That didn’t stop several dozen Texans, reportedly around 90, from rejecting TransCanada’s initial payment offers. The company had to seize much of that land using eminent domain or condemnation procedures.
But over time, most of the rankled landowners took settlement offers instead of pursuing potentially expensive legal action. TransCanada was likely to plow ahead anyway, as it showed this past fall and winter when it pushed through several protests set up the the Tar Sands Blockade, a coalition of environmentalists and landowners that for a time featured an occupied tree village built in the pipeline’s path.
Crawford, though, went to court to try to keep the pipeline off her third-generation family farm in Northeast Texas.
She alleges that TransCanada cannot claim “common carrier” status because it is a foreign concern, set up to transport oil through Texas, but not necessarily to Texans.
And now for the kicker. The matter is still pending in 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, even as the bulldozers arrived this week to bore a path across Crawford’s family farm.
On Wednesday (May 16), she lamented the beginning of the “destruction on our place” and vowed to see the legal battle through.
We maintain, now more than ever, that they never had the right to take our land in the first place. Their claimed Common Carrier status? A rubber stamp handed out by the embattled Texas Railroad Commission. This pipeline? An interstate project, even the Railroad Commission says it is out of their jurisdiction.
Here’s her full Facebook post:
Crews from TransCanada/Michels/Universal Field Services and others I don’t recognize started arriving yesterday in preparation for the destruction on our place. Within hours of their arrival the pasture inside “their” fenced in area was shredded, road signs designating “work area” went up, hundred of timbers used to support heavy machinery were unloaded from 18 wheelers and stacked, and most gut wrenching was the “blading” of our land by a trackhoe in preparation for even more heavy equipment. Sorry for the quality, but I’ve attached a video of what I witnessed yesterday. I intend to share as much of this process with you as I can.
But just as the workers were really getting going, yesterday afternoon a monstrous wind and thunderstorm blew in, forcing all the men off their equipment, scurrying for cover in their nearby pickups. A sign perhaps?
I was told our place is the final link, the last piece of property needed to complete TransCanada’s conveniently uncoupled and renamed Gulf Coast Segment of their Keystone Project. Furthermore, they will work 7 days a week if needed to overcome any delays, weather or otherwise. All eyes are on us folks, we really are The Last Stand.
All this while our appeal is freshly delivered and active at the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Texarkana. Unbelievable. TransCanada’s decision to move forward and initiate construction during our legal case just strengthens my family’s resolve to continue fighting. We maintain, now more than ever, that they never had the right to take our land in the first place. Their claimed Common Carrier status? A rubber stamp handed out by the embattled Texas Railroad Commission. This pipeline? An interstate project, even the Railroad Commission says it is out of their jurisdiction. The product to be carried? Tarsands, a product mined in Canada, and one of the most toxic and destructive products borne by Mother Earth. Just ask the residents in Kalamazoo and Mayflower what it did to their communities and waterways when it could not be contained. And sadly ask the First Nations in Alberta how is is destroying their lands and lives.
I hear the beeping of heavy equipment being moved, I guess they’re back at it already today, so I’m headed out to watch and take more photos. If you thought I was a mad and motivated landowner before, well, you’re about to see me hit a new gear. Stay tuned.