RSN August 14 Fundraising
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment
Print

Boardman writes: "Almost no one mentions the Texas Supreme Court case that could shut the pipeline down completely - since a court ruling for the appellant could mean that the pipeline was built on property to which the pipeline owner had no rights."

Keystone XL Pipeline. (photo: KETN)
Keystone XL Pipeline. (photo: KETN)


Texas Supreme Court Poised to Save Planet

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

02 February 14

 

ost of the Keystone XL chatter these days is about the U.S. State Department fantasy that tapping the tar sands of Canada will be a benign blessing for America and the world. But almost no one mentions the Texas Supreme Court case that could shut the pipeline down completely - since a court ruling for the appellant could mean that the pipeline was built on property to which the pipeline owner had no rights.

If completed, the 1,700-mile Keystone pipeline is intended to bring highly-polluting tar sands oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast, where much of it will likely be refined and shipped overseas. There is no dispute that tar sands oil (or dilbit) is a pollutant that contributes exorbitantly to climate change, but there is debate as to whether burning this oil will be more harmful to the planet than the extraction process itself in the oil pits of Northern Alberta (as in "Game Over for the Climate").

At issue in the Texas case is the TransCanada southern section of the pipeline, which is already built, but may be located on land to which the TransCanada corporation has no legal right. That's the argument of the Crawford Family Farm Partnership in its 25-page petition filed with the Texas Supreme Court on November 4, 2013. The first response from TransCanada was to ask the court for a waiver from responding, in effect asking to close the case immediately.

But the Texas Supreme Court did not grant that waiver and, on January 7, 2014, ordered TransCanada to file a response by midnight on February 6.

Julia Trigg Crawford, in a press release for the Crawford Family Farm Partnership, characterized the court's action as "a clear victory for pipeline opponents and landowners fighting TransCanada's overreach on property rights." As victories go, this one is pretty limited, since all it means is that TransCanada has to make its case to the court. The court could still rule for TransCanada, as lower courts have in the past.

Eminent domain ruling could save the planet - is that ironic?

This is an eminent domain case, not an environmental case. TransCanada used the state's eminent domain law to take land from the Crawford Family Farm (and others from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast) to use as the pipeline route. This corporate use of state power by a private, foreign corporation was allowed by the Texas Railroad Commission, which has an unsavory history of its own. Julia Trigg Crawford has been fighting this issue in court since 2012, losing peremptorily at the local trial court in Lamar County and again at the 6th Court of Appeals.

As the Crawford Family Farm press release explained it: "At the heart of Crawford's case is the ability of TransCanada, a foreign corporation, to use eminent domain under the state's 'common carrier' clause since their pipeline transports 90% Canadian tar sands and 10% North Dakota oil. There is no on ramp for Texas oil therefore violating the definition of a common carrier under Texas law."

According to Texas custom, all one has to do to become a common carrier - and thereby be able to wield eminent domain power - is to check a box on a form provided by the Texas Railroad Commission, which then says OK, bud, go get 'em! No proof required, no evidence requested, no fact check made, no hearing held, no questions asked. Check the box and you're it.

The appeal, formally THE CRAWFORD FAMILY FARM PARTNERSHIP v. TRANSCANADA KEYSTONE PIPELINE, L.P., (docket no. 13-0886), argues that: "TransCanada is not a common carrier with statutory eminent domain authority and cannot condemn appellant's property because it cannot subject itself to the provisions of Texas Natural Resource Code, Chapter 111.... Therefore, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, and the trial court's orders denying appellant's plea to the jurisdiction and granting TransCanada's motions for summary judgment must be reversed."

The appeal relies in part on a Texas Supreme Court precedent known as "Denbury" (Officially, TEXAS RICE LAND PARTNERS, LTD. AND MIKE LATTA, PETITIONERS, v. DENBURY GREEN PIPELINE-TEXAS, LLC, RESPONDENT, docket no. 09-0901) decided unanimously on August 26, 2011, in which the entire conclusion stated:

"Private property is constitutionally protected, and a private enterprise cannot acquire condemnation power merely by checking boxes on a one-page form. We reverse the court of appeals' judgment, and remand this case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

State Dept. tilts toward parochial profit, shrugs off global pain

Meanwhile the clock on the 105-day comment period on the State Department's fraudulent environmental report is ticking, and it's not clear whether the Texas court will act within that time. Wait, "fraudulent" report? Well, based on early reporting, the report is:

Intellectually fraudulent: By assessing just the pipeline element of the tar sands nexus, the report can't possibly be meaningful. It's like assessing an elephant based on only its left foot. When the report says, "the proposed Project [pipeline] is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas (based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply-demand scenarios)" - that translates into meaning something like: "Canada's going to screw the world no matter what, so we might as well get our piece of the action." In other words it's an environmental report that takes no full account of the environment.

Procedurally fraudulent: According to Friends of the Earth, "the U.S. Department of State issued its long-awaited environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline. The report was written by a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute that lied on its conflict of interest disclosure form."

Politically fraudulent: First clue, they released it late on a Friday. The main talking point was "it's not a decision document," but it raises no significant barrier to approving the pipeline. And the official reaction of TransCanada: "We're very pleased with the release and about being able to move to this next stage of the process. The case for the Keystone XL, in our view, is as strong as ever."

TransCanada is right, the case for the pipeline is as strong as ever - which in the view of opponents was never very strong in the first place. And last spring, President Obama promised he would only approve Keystone if it "does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem."

Well, that's what the report says. And we've seen this shuck and jive before, less than a year ago. Mission accomplished?



William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

Comments   

We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We'll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn't work we'll have to ramp up the moderation.

General guidelines: Avoid personal attacks on other forum members; Avoid remarks that are ethnically derogatory; Do not advocate violence, or any illegal activity.

Remember that making the world better begins with responsible action.

- The RSN Team

 
+63 # X Dane 2014-02-03 00:54
Everything about this report stinks to high heaven. And you KNOW they realize it, for that is the way ALL bad news is always rolled out...Friday night,.. when congress has left town, and few are paying attention.

I sure hope enough people will protest loudly, for I do believe James Hansen, when he says, that the Tar sands pipeline, means "Game over for the planet"

Because not only will it pollute, but the pollution will greatly increase, because much more of that awful gook will be transported.
 
 
-10 # RobertMStahl 2014-02-03 13:12
Really, one should pay attention to the developments, almost too much to consider without adopting complete paradigm shifting mentality, of Blacklight Power, Inc. The DMGs (Dark Matter Generator of electricity, mainly DC current, formally SF-CIHT) are under development, and the science with the necessary backing is moving forward quite rapidly. Nevertheless, the planet being sick, the physiology of thermodynamic shock possible for the transformation, considering the existence of transient states with the potential to shift, if too sudden, likely, will bring about the same issue as the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum, from James Lovelock, tightly connected to Lynn Margulis, also paradigm shifting. Anyway, for the lack of physiological concern, the issue we are facing, it is termed a separatrix in Convergent Math terms.
 
 
+9 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-02-03 17:34
Can you please tell me what you said? Thank you very much.
 
 
+2 # keenon the truth 2014-02-04 22:14
Huh?
 
 
+1 # Holy Cow 2014-02-04 19:07
Thanks, X Dane for your 'no environmental ruination caca allowed' comment. And, thanks also to Wm. Boardman, for such much needed info. on what is going forward on this via the legal line.

Send the court our legit concerns we must, and hope as we speak up and out that 'liberty and justice for all', including for Mother Earth, will prevail.
 
 
-128 # Penn 2014-02-03 04:41
The writer clearly lies when he claims the Tar Sands are some sort of higher polluting vehicle. The refined product is identical to everything it is blended with when it is transported to the end users. His lies do not stand up. He should be sued along with all the freaks that are funded by the Middle East countries that are trying to stop the Keystone Pipeline and fracking of domestic shale for oil and gas. The science has always proven both the pipeline and the feacking as safe, but the anti-american interest from the left keep whining and agitating as they spend those middle east dollars and keep the parasites on the left willfully in the dark.
 
 
+59 # WestWinds 2014-02-03 07:35
[quote name="Penn"]The writer clearly lies when he claims the Tar Sands are some sort of higher polluting vehicle. The refined product is identical to everything it is blended with when it is transported to the end users. ...

--- No, it's not. There is a tiered process of refining in order to approach any kind of non-polluting. This means, it takes money to keep refining this sludge to make a better gas. They don't want to spend the money on this safety feature any more than they wanted to put a five thousand dollar cement safety collar in the Gulf "spill" and preferred a twenty billion dollar mess. The reason they are shipping this garbage to China is that this lesser refined trash wouldn't pass the smell test our EPA laws, and there are too many (voting) environmental activists that don't want this project being built at all. But the rationale of the industrialists and fascists is that if this garbage gets shipped to China, then they (you) can claim it's not a pollutant and make it difficult to check on and use US MSM to hide the truth. But if it's being sold and used here in the US of A, then the truth will be told and more people will become active over this and shut it down as the really bad idea it is.

--- You #Penn claim Tar Sands is not a higher pollutant. My question is: How do you know? Are you a chemist? Or are you just another ditto head Tea Party fascist mouthing off for attention and hoping to confuse low-information voters?
 
 
+37 # WestWinds 2014-02-03 07:36
Part 2

--- The only reason this garbage is being refined at all is because oil has been placed on the commodities market for speculators. We need to get oil off the commodities market / stock exchanges altogether and this whole fight will die in its tracks.
 
 
+22 # bmiluski 2014-02-03 09:17
How typically "right". You people make statements and declarations BUT no facts or reports that back up your claims. Maybe its because your neo-con puppet masters don't give you any. Why, because they don't have any.
 
 
+35 # Working Class 2014-02-03 10:13
[quote name="Penn"]. His lies do not stand up. He should be sued along with all the freaks that are funded by the Middle East countries that are trying to stop the Keystone Pipeline and fracking of domestic shale for oil and gas. The science has always proven both the pipeline and the feacking as safe ..., Sorry Penn, you are the one that is not informed. I worked in and with the oil industry for 40 years. Tar Sands are not only a dirtier crude, but the process of mining it contributes much more to the destruction of the environment. The process is a form of open pit mining, not the usual drilling for oil. To get to tar sands the oil company must dig through the permafrost layer. In doing so the organic material trapped in the permafrost thaws releasing vast amounts of methane. Methane is at least four times more damaging to our atmosphere than carbon dioxide. So even before the oil in tar sands are separated and sent south in a pipeline the process has damaged the plant more than traditional oil extraction. And by the way, the refined product from the tar sands are slated for export out of the country - not domestic use. You reference science - where are you seeing your "scientific studies" the University of Fox?
 
 
+6 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-02-03 17:26
"And please welcome Penn, a passionate, resolute soul of the oil industry. What? He's connected by a cable to a portable computer. He is just a robot! Sorry, robot Penn, we cannot allow you to speak. The time normally alloted to a human cannot be used by a robot. Would someone please "cut off his cable" and put him back in the trunk of the car that transported him here."
 
 
0 # ericlipps 2014-02-13 14:33
Quoting Penn:
The writer clearly lies when he claims the Tar Sands are some sort of higher polluting vehicle. The refined product is identical to everything it is blended with when it is transported to the end users. His lies do not stand up. He should be sued along with all the freaks that are funded by the Middle East countries that are trying to stop the Keystone Pipeline and fracking of domestic shale for oil and gas. The science has always proven both the pipeline and the feacking as safe, but the anti-american interest from the left keep whining and agitating as they spend those middle east dollars and keep the parasites on the left willfully in the dark.

You have evidence for all this, Penn?

No, what am I saying? You're a right-winger; you don't need no stinkin' evidence.
 
 
+37 # goodsensecynic 2014-02-03 07:22
It might seem like a niggling point, but I respectfully object to the statement "Canada's going to screw the world no matter what ..."

"Canada" isn't doing anything. Some petroleum and pipeline companies, aided by their marionette prime minister Stephen Harper, are doing the damage, but the issue remains highly contested.

There is a robust movement against not only "XL" but two other pipelines (one headed west and one headed east) in Canada. It is led by environmentalis ts, native peoples and a significant proportion of the 61% of the electorate which voted against Mr. Harper in the last federal election and may well dislodge him from power in 2015.
 
 
+6 # WBoardman 2014-02-03 15:36
goodsensecynic makes a valid point,
not all (or even most) Canadians are out to screw the world.

But some of those in control are,

and I was using, I thought, a cognizable convention,
journalistic shorthand or dramatic license,
to describe what still seems to be reality.

I had no intention to malign the innocent,
and still don't.

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/271-38/14218-transcanada-pipeline-protest-in-fifth-week

http://readersupportednews.org/pm-section/27-27/14645-keystone-xl-crime-against-humanity

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/271-38/15451-focus-tar-sands-crunch-time
 
 
+5 # wrknight 2014-02-04 09:55
You are right. Canada is not screwing anyone. We are getting screwed by the corporatists and the U.S. and Canadian politicians they control. And in the end, it is we who are screwing ourselves as it is we, the U.S. and Canadian citizens, who put the politicians in office. And so long as we allow money to purchase our elections, the screwing will only worsen.
 
 
+24 # Eliz77 2014-02-03 08:27
There are demonstrations scheduled for today, Monday February 3 all over the country against the KXL, and these are just the warm ups.

Penn, I feel so sorry for you. It must be terrible to know your soul is sealed off in an oil can.
 
 
-42 # Penn 2014-02-03 09:11
Yeah, I will look for both people protesting.
 
 
+18 # jon 2014-02-03 09:13
Anybody that is as mean-spirited as Penn laughs at the concept of soul - he can't imagine what the word could possibly mean.
 
 
+14 # blizmo1 2014-02-03 09:14
Here's the link to a protest near you:

https://actionnetwork.org/event_campaigns/kxl-fseis?referrer=350-org&zipcode=91436
 
 
+13 # Texas Aggie 2014-02-03 13:50
I have yet to see in any article about the environmental impact statement any mention of oil spills when pipelines break as they did in Arkansas and North Dakota, not to mention smaller spills that happen continuously. Those things also have an impact on the environment, especially when the oil gets into a water system. And that doesn't even begin to consider the local environment where the immediately surrounding area of the spill is worthless as a life supporting system for a very long time.

Were leaks and spills not mentioned in the impact statement? That would be incredibly amateur and negligent.
 
 
+2 # BKnowswhitt 2014-02-03 14:43
How about the Alaska Pipeline? It worked. Forget the environmental hysteria .. how about making corporations pay per mile where it's allowed to go or better yet a 'flow meter' when it goes through the properties on it's way pay by the cubic volume .. why should the corporate oil entities get to screw the little guy to get their big oil profits to their destinations without paying their way ... and then if there are spills they double down the payments including the cleanup ... now you have incentives and accountablity both ways .. oh yeah i forgot it's back door deals by politicians and lobbyists all in each others pockets .. without any real democratic oversite ... heheheheheeh
 
 
+4 # WBoardman 2014-02-04 12:10
Don't know all that much about Alaska pipeline,
except that it passed the Senate by one vote,
cast-by-felon-i n-progress Spiro Agnew.

When you say "it worked," I wonder what that means.

It seems to have been good for Alaskans in a kind of
capitalist socialism sort of way, so that's good I guess.

But didn't most of the oil go overseas and further
undermine American energy independence?
 
 
+12 # jstick 2014-02-04 00:22
The law of eminent domain was created to allow government entities (cities, states, etc) to appropriate private property for projects (roads, railways, etc.)which benefit the community.
1) The Canadian pipeline company is not a government entity.
2) No U.S. community benefits from the Keystone pipeline -- only the Koch brothers and their colleagues in the oil/energy business.
This lawsuit should be a slam dunk for the badly abused property owners.
 

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.

RSNRSN