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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Texas delivers victory for property rights in Keystone pipeline fight

Republicans are screaming for the Keystone Pipeline but there is one critical issue that is being overlooked - property rights. Nobody seems to care that Keystone, a private energy company, is invoking eminent domain and using the full police powers of the state to seize private property. In a sane world, Keystone would have to directly negotiate with property owners to buy their property. But why go through the negotiation and purchase process when you can just legally take the property? Lawsuits in several states are surfacing as property owners fight Keystone for their property rights. One Texas property owner had a temporary win in court but victory was short lived.
Julia Trigg Crawford's fight to prevent Keystone XL pipeline company, TransCanada, from seizing her property using eminent domain scored a big win late last Friday when an appellate court reinstated her temporary restraining order (TRO). However, the same court just vacated the TRO today. TransCanada called in some big guns from American law firm Fulbright & Jaworski to get it done. Most Americans believe eminent domain is a power unique to government that should only be used rarely and only in a matter of public necessity, like for a road or school. So they’re incredulous to find out private companies can obtain this governmental power under certain circumstances, and one of them is for pipelines. However in Texas, that’s restricted to what’s called a ‘common carrier’ pipeline deemed a ‘public use’ as opposed to a private use. A coalition of organizations in Texas who are backing Crawford is expressing "exasperation" that the The Property Rights Protection Act, H.R. 1433, will likely include an exemption for pipelines, including Keystone XL. The bill recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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