Trans Texas Corridor
Cities form 391 Commission Out of Concern regarding Southern Segment of Keystone’s Tar Sand Pipeline
About one year ago, three small cities in East Texas, located south of Jacksonville, formed the East Texas SubRegional Planning Commission (ETSRPC). The ETSRPC is a 391 Commission, formed out of concern for numerous issues surrounding TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. The initial cities consisted of Gallatin and Reklaw. Later, the city of Alto also joined. All three cities are within Region 6 in the state of Texas with populations of less than 1200 citizens.
The 391 Commission is part of the Texas Government Code, established in 1987, that allows at least 2 or more cities, counties, or combination thereof, to form a sub-regional entity within a region to work together to make plans or discover answers for their communities on matters of concern.
The formation of a 391 elevates a city and/or counties position with state and federal agencies, as it gives the 391 the power of a regional government recognized by the state, requiring agencies to “coordinate” their activities around issues and answer questions regarding issues of concern.
Basically, when a 391 is formed, the groups involved have a bigger voice in what happens in regards to a project within their geographical jurisdiction. In the case of the Keystone XL pipeline, the 391 can ask questions and expect answers from agencies such as the Railroad Commission, TCEQ, Army Corps of Engineers, etc. over various issues that apply to a project or issue of concern. During the Trans-Texas Corridor controversy, several 391 Commissions were formed in opposition to the proposed road project, with the end result being the road not coming to fruition.
Gallatin, Reklaw and Alto formed the 391 Commission for the following reasons regarding the Keystone XL pipeline:
1) Water: The cities are concerned about their municipal wells being contaminated should a spill occur and what alternatives they would have to have potable water. Tar sands crude is laden with far more chemicals and pollutants than conventional crude, and these cities are also concerned about the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer that underlies their water supplies.
2) Emergency Response: A tar sand spill is a hazardous material spill. Since it is not conventional crude, there is concern regarding how these towns’ voluntary fire departments would deal with such a spill. On the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, where a tar sands spill occurred involving the Keystone Pipeline, residents were evacuated at least six miles from the spill site due to benzene and hydrogen sulfide levels that were at dangerously high exposure levels.
3) Liability and Safety: The tar sand spills in Kalamazoo, Michigan have cost more than $800 million. It was the largest and most expensive onshore spill in U.S. history according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The spill has taken more than two years to clean up. Since TransCanada doesn’t have to pay into the U.S. spill fund due to an IRS exemption, a real question that deserves a real answer is what would be the liability for these local municipalities, the county, or state should a spill occur? On TransCanada’s new Keystone 1 line, the company has already had more than twelve spills in less than one year.
The East Texas Subregional Planning Commission formed to preserve the “health, safety and welfare of their residents and plan for future development of their communities for almost any activity.” In July, the 391 Commission joined a suit against the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the water crossing permits needed by TransCanada. Currently, the suit is on appeal at the 10th circuit court in Denver.
“There’s no such thing as a voluntary agreement with a company or government that has the power to take your property,” – Bill Peacock, vice president for the Texas Public Policy Foundation
Dear Fellow Texans:
Thank you for being a good neighbor. When you added your name to a petition calling for Texas public hearings to discuss illegal land seizures along the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline, you stood up for Texans’ property rights and against corporate entitlements.
One such regular Texan is Julia Trigg Crawford, who has almost single-handedly stopped (for the moment) TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline in its tracks in NE Texas.
Texans defeated the Trans-Texas Corridor for the same reasons that TransCanada deserves defeat – eminent domain abuses in the extreme.
Apparently, those who are rushing to bring TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline through Texas haven’t yet learned their lesson: Don’t mess with Texas landowners.
Our movement is gathering momentum by the day, but your help is urgently needed.
How you can help:
1) We need your financial support (small, medium and large) for Julia Trigg Crawford’s “David and Goliath” fight against TransCanada. It will be the first test case of the Denbury decision by the Texas Supreme Court. (more later)
Stand with Julia, Stand with Texans: Donate to the Crawford Defense Fund at www.standwithjulia.com.
2) We need your help to pressure the state of Texas to hold hearings along the planned pipeline route throughout east Texas in order to further expose eminent domain abuses yet to be publicized.
A Texan’s Story: Julia Trigg Crawford and Her Keystone XL Nightmare
In Direct, Texas (a little town near Paris, in NE Texas), Julia Trigg Crawford manages a 600-acre farm that’s been in her family since 1948. The land is adjacent to the Red River and filled with Caddo Indian artifacts. Mega-corporation, TransCanada wants to seize parts of the Crawford’s land to build the Keystone XL — a 36” export pipeline that will pump corrosive tar sands at a pressure far higher than conventional oil — down to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico in South Texas.
When TransCanada came knocking to try and buy the Crawford family land, Julia Trigg did not want to sell. That didn’t matter much to TransCanada — they thought they had the right to take the Crawford’s land, whether the family wanted to give it to them or not. They had filed and been granted their T-4 permit from the Railroad Commission; they had checked a box on this form claiming to be a common carrier — nothing more was needed for them to use the power of eminent domain to seize land from uncooperative landowners.
The Fox is Minding the Hen House — The Railroad Commission Passes the Buck while Texans’ Private Property Rights Are Abused
The Houston Chronicle recently quoted, James Prescott, a spokesperson for TransCanada, “With the RR Commission’s issuance of the [T-4] permit, the ability to exercise eminent domain is included with it.”
But, Railroad Commission spokesperson, Ramona Nye, gave a different answer:
“The Railroad Commission has no authority over granting pipelines such as Keystone,”
And further stated that eminent domain “is a private property rights issue, established in statutes enacted by the Texas Legislature.”
She added that the T-4 permit “is not a permit to develop and construct a pipeline. It is a registration process and a permit to operate a pipeline with the commission . . . The Railroad Commission does not have the authority to determine who is and who is not a common carrier.”
Stand with Julia, Stand with Texans: Donate to the Crawford Defense Fund at www.standwithjulia.com to make TransCanada Prove Their Common Carrier Status!
Without the Crawford family ever seeing the inside of a courtroom, TransCanada condemned their land. To prove their right to seize the Crawford family’s property, they claim that the Railroad Commission gave them the power of eminent domain — even though the Railroad Commission claims they have no authority over granting the power of eminent domain!
The Supreme Court of Texas recently reaffirmed their opinion in the Denbury Green decision: checking a box does not conclusively establish eminent domain power. TransCanada took the Crawford family’s land before they ever had to show proof of fulfilling the legal requirements of a public pipeline — And, that’s not right!
The Crawford family is fighting the oil giant TransCanada for their land and for the rights of all property owners in Texas. But, they can’t do it without you — TransCanada has a legion of lawyer hounds that are desperate to stop them and us.
Please join with Texans who played a key role in defeating the Trans-Texas Corridor. We are sick and tired of state officials pretending to care about “private property rights” while they give multinational corporate interests the green light to take our land.
Stand with us against corporate bullies that use unconstitutional legal loopholes to steal land from Texas property owners. With a court date on April 30th, the Crawford’s urgently need your financial support to help with legal costs. Go to www.standwithjulia.com and donate today — 100% of the funds go to support their legal defense.
Ordinary Texans from across the spectrum defended their land from the Trans-Texas Corridor project and won — with your help we can win this fight, too.
You can also help by asking more Texans to sign the letter/petition calling for public hearings in Texas on eminent domain abuse here: http://www.indytexans.org/2012/02/18/sign-the-petition-letter-for-texas-hearings-on-transcanada-pipeline/
Stand with us,
Terri Hall, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom
Debra Medina, We Texans
Linda Curtis, Independent Texans
Jessica Ellison, Texans for Accountable Government
Thanks to the many of you who moved so quickly to support Julia Trigg Crawford and family. Their efforts to maintain a temporary restraining order on TransCanada’s trenching of their property in NE Texas for the Keystone XL pipeline, without any federal nor state approval, is still in place, but the hearing continues this Friday in Paris.
The hearing on the temporary restraining order continues this coming Friday, Feb. 24, Paris, Texas, 1:30 pm. There will be no protest, but we hope some of you can help fill the courtroom of Lamar County Courthouse, 119 North Main- Paris, Texas. We will listen and pray the court does the right thing.
Click on this link to sign the petition calling for state of Texas public hearings on eminent domain abuses related to TransCanada and then Facebook it to your Texas friends and family — or just forward this entire email to them with a note asking them to sign too.
Note: A legal defense fund is getting established for the Crawford family. Watch for those details as their full case comes to trial in April
Believe it or not, even after the Judge asked that this case not be politicized, TransCanada attorneys started reading a letter into the record signed by Gov. Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison urging the court to lift the temporary restraining order. The Judge stopped them stating that he wanted to hear the legal arguments.
There was an avalanche of coverage and though we assume you’ve seen much of it, check out the links below, including an article in today’s Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.
Independent Texans has concerns about the rights of property owners related to the claims by TransCanada that they are a “common carrier.” Common carrier status gives them to right to use eminent domain to seize private property against a landowner’s will. Last August, the Texas Supreme Court rendered their becoming infamous “Denbury” decision. Industry firms are marshaling their resources to get the Texas Supreme Court revisit their opinion, despite the fact that it was unanimous. Here is what a pro-industry law firm, Jones Walker, says about the Denbury decision:
It is clear that pipeline companies must do more than simply check the common-carrier box on their Form T-4. Because the burden shifts to the pipeline companies to prove their common-carrier status once it is challenged, they should ensure that there exists clear documentation establishing an expectation that customers unrelated to the pipeline company will utilize the planned pipeline. In other words, pipeline companies should make intentional efforts to document that the pipeline will, in fact, be used by third party customers transporting third party gas. (read more here)
If the court rehears this case it will be unusual. If they overturn it, Katy bar the door for another grassroots populist movement the likes of which haven’t been seen since Texans rose up to stop the Trans-Texas Corridor.
Here’s the hearing Transcript – Enjoy! Crawford v. TransCanada Hearing Transcript 2-17-12
Here’s just some that press coverage we mentioned:
There is a growing call for public hearings from Texas landowners and residents in NE Texas who are facing potential eminent domain seizures of their land for the Keystone XL/TransCanada pipeline. The following organizations are doing this together: Independent Texans, We Texans, Texans for Accountable Government, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom.
Please sign this petition/letter to State Representative and Chair of the Land and Resource Management Committee, Rene Oliveira, committee Vice-Chair, Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt and Texas House Speaker, Rep. Joe Straus.
A coalition of groups including Independent Texans, We Texans (founded by Debra Medina), Texas TURF (founded by Terri Hall), and Texans for Accountable Government, are standing up for Texas property rights and to put a stop to the continued abuses by foreign corporations and the refusal of our legislature to truly reform eminent domain laws.