A Northeast Texas farmer is expected to continue her legal battle today against TransCanada and the Keystone XL Pipeline during a hearing before a Lamar County judge.
The hearing in Paris might be the final segment of Julia Trigg Crawford’s ongoing lawsuit to protect her family’s land from the company planning to build a tar sand pipeline connecting Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf coast.
The Keystone pipeline will run through six states, cutting through 16 counties in North and East Texas on its way to the coast. The pipeline route runs through Fannin, Lamar, Delta, Hopkins, Franklin, Wood, Upshur, Smith, Cherokee, Rusk, Nacogdoches, Angelina, Polk, Liberty, Hardin, Jefferson and Harris counties.
Opponents of the pipeline say a major concern is what it will transport.
The Keystone XL pipeline is designed to carry tar sand oil, a thicker oil that some fear would be worse for the environment in the event of a spill than normal crude oil.
The heart of Crawford’s legal argument challenges Trans-Canada’s status as a “common carrier,” which gives the foreign corporation eminent domain rights over Texans’ properties.
“We are in this fight because we believe our position is right. That any corporation — be they domestic or foreign — no one has the right to take a landowner’s land against their will unless they can prove it is in the common good,” Crawford said.
Crawford said it is too simple for any company to check a box and gain rights to impose eminent domain.
“Because there is no entity at the state level that follows up and says, ‘Prove how you are a common good,’ ” Crawford said.
The hearing is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. today at the Lamar County Court at Law in the 100 block of North Main Street in Paris.
Many detractors of the pipeline have promised to attend the hearing, which has garnered national media and political attention.
Crawford said Jane Kleeb, the founder of Bold Nebraska, a Nebraska-based organization that is supporting the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline, will attend, and Debra Medina, a former candidate for Texas governor and executive director of We Texans, is expected to speak to a gathered crowd at 9 a.m on the Lamar County courthouse steps.
A spokesman from the district clerk’s office for Lamar County was unsure late Thursday afternoon if the hearing would be moved to a larger venue to provide space for the anticipated crowd.
Eddy Radillo, an ardent supporter of Crawford in her case and a member of Stop Tarsands, said visitors would bring lawn chairs and fill the hallways if necessary to support her during the hearing.
“Keep in mind, there are hearings being held in the larger courtroom with smaller attendance. They can manipulate their own courthouse, but if they don’t want to do that and they want to press the issue, we will not be deterred,” Radillo said.
Supporters from Houston and Austin will flood the North East Texas courthouse, Radillo said.
“I see (today) as a historical event. This judge is going to determine if these people are going to have the right to impose eminent domain on Julia Crawford ... If he rules in Julia’s favor, we will be elated,” Radillo said.
Crawford’s case won a small victory in being granted the hearing in late February; however, the date was consistently pushed back until it was finally set for today.
In March, the 6th Circuit Court of appeals in Texarkana rescinded the restraining order granted to Crawford to prevent TransCanada from routing its pipeline across her farm, which has been owned by her family since 1948.
Many expect that today’s hearing will be the end of the legal fight that began for Crawford in August 2011 when her family refused to sign the final easement notice provided by TransCanada requesting to buy the land.
“She got a different lawyer. This is a done deal tomorrow, this is going to happen,” Radillo said.
A TransCanada spokesman said the company, with more than 60 years of service in North America, feels confident it would prove its case at the hearing.
“This issue has been going on for several months... and we believe all the claims being made by Ms. Crawford are without merit,” said TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha. “We are doing what we are allowed to by U.S. law.”