Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) April 30, 2013 - Texas landowners are suing TransCanada Corp. over the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The landowners argue that TransCanada does not qualify as a common carrier and does not have the right to acquire their property through eminent domain to build the oil pipeline. The planned pipeline would transport Canadian tar-sands oil to refineries on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
“These cases involve two important interests in the state of Texas: oil and property rights,” said Gregory D. Jordan, a Texas oil and gas attorney.
The landowners argue that TransCanada is not a common carrier and cannot acquire property by condemnation. District Court Judge Tom Rugg ruled against one group of landowners in September, saying that the acquisition of the land is constitutional and the pipeline can proceed. The landowners are appealing to the Ninth Court of Appeals in Beaumont, Texas. Several similar cases are making their way through the Texas courts.
The landowners are attempting to build on a landmark 2011 ruling from the Texas Supreme Court in the case of Texas Rice Land Partners Ltd. v. Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas LLC, which made it more difficult for pipeline operators to claim common carrier status. The issue in that case was whether a pipeline was truly available for public use, or was intended for private use and was a common carrier in name only.
In the Denbury case, the Denbury Green pipeline company had attempted to establish itself as a common carrier of carbon dioxide by indicating that status in an application to the Texas Railroad Commission. Texas Rice Land Partners refused to allow the company access to its land for surveying purposes, which led to the court battle. A lower court granted a motion for summary judgment by Denbury Green, but the Texas Supreme Court reversed, stating that when a landowner challenges common-carrier status, the company must do more to prove that the pipeline is available for public use.
Austin oil and gas lawyer Jordan notes, “Many pipelines cross our great state, but Denbury has helped level the playing field for landowners who want to stop really 'private' pipelines from being built on their land.”
The Texas lawsuits are potentially the last hurdle keeping TransCanada from building the southern extension of the oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Texas coast. Another extension of the pipeline, from Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska, has been delayed by environmental concerns and still needs U.S. government approval.
The Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan has handled many business and employment disputes involving non-compete agreements, unfair competition, confidentiality agreements and breaches of contract. To learn more visit, http://www.theaustintriallawyer.com.
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