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July 31, 2013

Appeals court hears arguments in fight over pipeline

GREENVILLE — A state appeals court heard arguments in Greenville Tuesday over a Lamar County woman’s fight against the installation of an oil pipeline on her land.

For her part, Julia Trigg Crawford felt the hearing before the Sixth District Court of Appeals could not have gone better.

“I thought that it went incredibly well,” Crawford said of her attempt to overturn an August 2012 ruling in the case of The Crawford Family Farm Partnership v. TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L. P.

The decision in 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, Crawford’s appeal attorney, 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.

“It is bringing oil from outside the State of Texas into the State of Texas,” Hammond said, denying that decisions in similar cases set a precedent in the current appeal. “This is a new case.”

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.

“This is a pipeline that is going to bring tens of thousands of jobs to Texas,” Freeman said. “Jobs do go to the public use.”

The appeals court did not immediately issue a ruling in the case.

Crawford was impressed by the justices, whom she said appeared interested in the arguments and were “aggressively sympathetic to the arguments from both sides.”

She expects an additional appeal, to the Texas Supreme Court, to take place no matter how the court rules. Crawford believes TransCanada would automatically appeal if the appeals court rules in her favor and she intends to do the same if the decision goes against her.

“I have nothing to lose and the longer we stay in this the more the truth comes out,” Crawford said.

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