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August 28, 2013

State appeals court rules for pipeline company

A state appeals court Tuesday upheld a lower court’s decision in the case of a Lamar County woman’s fight against the installation of an oil pipeline on her land.

The Sixth District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the summary judgment motion granted by the Lamar County Court at Law one year ago to TransCanada Keystone Pipeline. Arguments in the appeal were presented during a July 30 hearing in Greenville.

The decision by the Lamar County Court at Law upheld TransCanada’s condemnation of a 50-foot strip of land across Crawford’s pasture. The pipeline is being built to carry oil to Texas refineries from Canada.

Wendi Hammond, appeal attorney for Julia Trigg Crawford, of The Crawford Family Farm Partnership, had argued TransCanada wasn’t eligible to receive a summary judgment in its favor in the case, as it does not meet the definition of a “common carrier” under the Texas Natural Resource Code.

Hammond claimed TransCanada does meet the definition of a general common carrier, but not a common carrier with eminent domain authority, which is reserved for companies which transport materials “intrastate”, or inside the state.

TransCanada attorney James Freeman said the distinction between intrastate and interstate business does not exist under the law regarding a common carrier and, even so, the proposed pipeline clearly meets the standard of a common carrier with eminent domain authority under the Texas Business Organizations Code, as it will meet the “public use” requirement.

In the 30-page ruling issued Tuesday, Justice Bailey C. Moseley wrote the opinion agreeing with the trial court that TransCanada did meet the definition.

“Crawford submitted no evidence to the trial court to contradict or otherwise challenge the evidence of TransCanada as a common carrier ‘to or for the public for hire,’” Bailey said. “ TransCanada produced undisputed evidence ... that it will ship crude petroleum for one or more customers who will retain ownership of the oil. It has, therefore, complied with the reasonable probability test in Denbury.  We affirm summary judgment in favor of TransCanada.”

Crawford said she intends to appeal the case to the Texas Supreme Court.

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