Static’s first thought on hearing that a Texas appeals court had ruled against Julia Trigg Crawford in her family’s ongoing legal battle with TransCanada was, “Well, at least the decision wasn’t delivered by text message.”
That’s how Lamar County Judge Bill Harris delivered his initial decision — favoring the company over the Crawfords — in the eminent domain case in July 2012. The family has been fighting the giant Canadian energy company over its taking of a strip of land from the Crawford family farm for the Keystone tar sands pipeline.
This time around, the three-judge court of appeals in Texarkana made the ruling in the courtroom. “I thought the court took the case seriously,” said Crawford, spokeswoman for the family. “The judges were interested and thoughtful; they just didn’t make the decision we were hoping for.”
The case revolves around whether TransCanada is planning to use the southern leg of the Keystone Pipeline as a common carrier or a private line. The line is slated to carry poisonous, corrosive, and impossible-to-clean-up tar sand bitumen. In Texas, common carriers — pipelines through which any oil or gas company can pay to pump their product — have the right to take private property via eminent domain, while companies operating private lines do not.
“When the ruling was handed down, I was very disappointed because I was so optimistic about the strength of our case, particularly with a three-judge panel with new eyes looking at it,” Crawford said. “But it didn’t go our way. So we’ve filed notice that we plan to appeal to the state supreme court. Losing round two doesn’t mean we give up without going to round three.”
An appeal also helps keep alive the public dialogue about Keystone and other tar sands pipelines, she acknowledged.
Crawford and her attorney Wendi Hammond are hopeful that the Texas Supreme Court will agree to hear the case. “There’s always uncertainty because the Supreme Court could deny a hearing,” said Crawford, “but we’re hopeful because this is such an important case.”
Hammond told Static that she thinks TransCanada “will argue that there is no need to hear this case because it’s similar to another case they decided not to hear. But I’m hopeful that the Supreme Court realizes that this is its own case and needs to be looked at on its own merits.”
Despite the ongoing legal proceedings, TransCanada moved ahead and put their pipe under a pasture on the Crawford property located on the Red River just outside of Paris, Texas. “They tore up a good section of that pasture,” said Crawford, “but they’ve assured us that in a couple of years we won’t even notice they were ever here.”
At least until there’s a spill.