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Decision Expected in Eminent Domain Pipeline Case

August 20th, 2012

According to an article featured by StateImpact, Judge Bill Harris of Lamar County heard arguments in a pre-trial hearing about the Keystone XL pipline’s use of eminent domain in North Texas. Julia Trigg and her attorney faced off against a team of TransCanada attorneys over the use of her land to construct the pipeline. According to StateImpact, Trigg is one of the last holdouts among some 850 Texas landowners who signed agreements with the company to allow the pipeline on their land. Reportedly, during the negotiations with landowners, the company filed over a hundred eminent domain claims in Texas, pressuring some landowners to sign easements. Sources say in a packed courtroom, Judge Harris heard six hours of arguments from both sides.

According to legal sources, the case centers on the question of whether or not TransCanada qualifies as a “common carrier.” In other words, whether or not it can justify using eminent domain because it is a project that’s for the public good. TransCanada says it’s a common carrier because the oil passing through its pipeline will ultimately be used by the public, and that it will make its pipeline available to other companies to use as well. However, Trigg’s counsel disagrees, and her attorney is using a landmark unanimous Texas Supreme Court decision in her arguments. That case, known as Denbury Green, ruled that the burden is on the pipeline company to prove that the pipeline is for the common good.

It is believed that if the judge rules and finds in favor of the plaintiff by finding the lack of one element necessary to qualify as a common carrier, TransCanada will have to appeal. Sources say a decision could come as early as this week, or the judge could decide to take it to a trial which is currently scheduled for September 4.

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