Keystone XL pipeline runs into landowner scrutiny

Kate Archer Kent Apr 18, 2012

Stacey Vanek Smith: The White House is threatening to veto a transportation bill, after House legislators tacked on an approval for the controversial Kestone XL oil pipeline that would run from Alberta, Canada to Texas. Meanwhile, the company building the pipeline says it’s secured almost all the land it needs to begin construction of a shortened line from Cushing, Okla. down to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

From Red River Radio, Kate Archer Kent has that story.

Kate Archer Kent: The horses grazing in Direct, Texas, pay no attention to their owner. Farmer Julia Trigg Crawford says the horses are ignoring her because she hasn’t had time to ride them. She’s all consumed by her court battle. TransCanada condemned part of her pasture to make way for its 500-mile pipeline. She’s challenging eminent domain law. That’s where private property can be taken for public use. She says her legal defense against TransCanada could cost $300,000.

Julia Trigg Crawford: When you realize that you’re up against a foe with a deep pocket — and we have a lot of grit — but we don’t have the money.

She’s concerned about the environmental impact to her land and a decline in value with a pipeline running through it. Crawford launched a website, So far she’s raised about $7,000.

Crawford: People are sending me nickels and dimes. They know that this is not an easy thing to do. They’re appreciative almost that someone just like them, Joe Every Man Farmer in Texas, is willing stay say OK we’ll stand out front if you guys kind of back us up.

Crawford says TransCanada offered her $20,000 to use her pasture. She refused, so the company took her to court. Now a jury decides compensation.

Attorney Hal Cameron has defended thousands of landowners in eminent domain disputes. He says Texas law is clear-cut. Roads, power lines, pipelines will always need to be built.

Hal Cameron: Landowners are pretty much up against the wall. Not much you can do. Real fight is over the money. How much will they pay you for protecting your land? How much do they pay you for damaging your land?

TransCanada spokesman Jim Prescott says legal challenges attract attention, but they’re rare. He says the vast majority of easement agreements for pipelines are decided at a kitchen table.

Jim Prescott: We’ve certainly had a lot of landowners come to us and say let’s do business.

Prescott says TransCanada hopes to start construction by midsummer, once it has all federal permits and landowner agreements in hand. Julia Trigg Crawford’s trial is set for April 30th.

In Direct, Texas, I’m Kate Archer Kent for Marketplace.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.