Monday, April 23, 2012

Jobs at the Expense of Liberty?

Republicans are lusting for the Trans Canada Keystone Pipeline and the Republicans are willing to invoke eminent domain for a private business to get it done. This constitutes an egregious violation of property rights and an unjust property taking.
The TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline is a much bigger issue than simply tar sands and oil. The controversy surrounding the pipeline highlights again the very real controversy over the use of eminent domain. Private property ownership is the principle component of free society. One of the greatest freedoms in America, to own land free from coercion or threat of theft, is the cornerstone of a free and prosperous nation. I cannot speak to how the pipeline is being handled in other states but in Texas it should cause landowners to stand up and take notice. First, some background. When attempting to acquire a person’s land, there are two ways to do it. You can negotiate with the landowner to buy it from them directly or the power of eminent domain (government force) can be exercised to take ownership and evict the property owner. Texas bestows the power of eminent domain to pipelines [Texas Natural Resources Code - §111.019] if the pipeline meets the prescribed common carrier definitions. In filing an “Application for Permit to Operate a Pipeline in Texas” with the Texas Railroad Commission, companies indicate, by checking a box, whether they intend to operate a private pipeline or whether they are a common carrier. However, the Railroad Commission claims no authority to verify or certify that the pipeline operator is in fact a common carrier. So who does? The short answer is: no one. As it stands now in Texas, when pipeline companies come with eminent domain power in hand to claim your land, your only option is to lawyer up and fight them in the courts at your own expense. This is how tenuous your property rights are in this state!
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Judy Morris,
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