Many conservative Americans back the Keystone XL pipeline, but
they also back property rights. So what happens when both issues
conflict with one another?
Last month, a judge in Lamar County, Texas, ruled that
Calgary-based TransCanada can run a pipeline across a family's
private property, otherwise known as Red'Arc Farm. Julia Trigg Crawford manages the
"My family has been in the county since the 1850s,
but my grandfather bought this particular farm in 1948," she tells
OneNewsNow. "It's about 650 acres, 400 of it ... crop land where we
grow wheat, corn and soybeans, and the balance of the farm is
pasture land and the homestead, we have a small herd of cattle and
things like that."
It's an area that Crawford admits is not foreign to
"There are other pipelines in the county, and I guess it was
probably five or six years ago when they approached my father, who
was then the farm manager, about crossing our place," she explains.
"My dad said, 'We don't want a pipeline on our place. Can you guys
find another route?' And the other two pipelines did. They're not
very far away from us, but they're not on our place."
When TransCanada approached Crawford's father in 2008 about
coming across their property, she says her dad posed the same
question. According to Crawford, TransCanada basically said No,
we're coming across.
"From 2008 to 2011 there were discussions," says Crawford. "The
initial offer from TransCanada for the easement across our property
was around $5,000. That's a one-time payment for them to own an
easement to pretty much do what they want across your land. So it
started off at $5,000. Over the course of the next three years, it
went up to around $20,000."
Crawford tells OneNewsNow that her family's position was they
still did not want the pipeline -- and for a number of reasons,
including giving up their land to a foreign corporation.
"We are concerned about how it will hurt the land. We're
concerned about the threat that it poses to our water because they
are going to drill this pipeline under a creek to get into our land
-- and that creek is a creek that the state has given us water
rights to," she says. "What they propose to transport -- diluted
bitumen -- is a whole different cat[egory] than regular oil. This
stuff sinks when it hits water, so it completely degrades the
baseline of your creek."
TransCanada eventually sought help from the courts.
The family's land was condemned, something Crawford admits is a
fairly easy thing to do in Texas. In August 2012, a county judge
ruled that TransCanada can use eminent domain to obtain the right
of way across her family's farm. A panel of three local citizens
put the value of the land at $10,000.
"At that point, TransCanada thought they were just going to walk
away, but that's where our story gets interesting -- that a small
farm in Texas stood up and continues to stand up against the
pipeline that claims to have eminent domain when they can't come to
the table with the proof that they're really qualified to do
The Crawfords' attorney is putting together an appeal of the
condemnation. It will go before the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of
Throughout the ordeal, Julia Trigg Crawford has been invited to
speak before the state committee that is responsible for eminent
domain. She's optimistic that something will change in Texas about
eminent domain and property rights.
OneNewsNow contacted TransCanada for comment on this story,
beginning with Julia Crawford's claims about the company's offers
for the land in question. TransCanada spokesman Grady Semmens spoke
"I can't speak specifically to our dealings with the Crawford
family because our dealings with individual landowners are
confidential -- for pretty obvious reasons, I would say," states
Semmens. "But certainly this is a very public issue with the
Crawford family because they are particularly vocal opponents of
our Gulf Coast project pipeline, which we have begun construction
on. In the beginning of August, we began construction on [the
Semmens does say that
TransCanada approached landowners along the pipeline right of way,
including the Crawford family, to discuss the route and easements,
which are "very common features" on virtually everyone's property
in terms of pipelines for sewer, water, natural gas and oil.
"That is what it's all about ... us trying to reach voluntary,
negotiated agreements with the landowners along the right of way to
ensure that they are fairly compensated for allowing us access to
the land, to use it for the pipeline, as well as compensating them
for any disturbance or inconvenience that our pipeline might pose
Semmens adds that TransCanada has had good dealings with more
than 95 percent of all the landowners along this pipeline route in
Oklahoma and Texas, and the company has reached voluntary,
negotiated settlements. He says the use of eminent domain is
extremely rare and the tool of last resort.
As for Crawford's concerns about the pipeline being drilled
under a creek, Semmens says the Gulf Coast project -- and the
Keystone expansion project, overall -- has gone through many years
of environmental reviews and planning, including independent
reviews by the State Department.
"It will be the newest and safest pipeline every built in the
United States," he tells OneNewsNow. "There is a whole list of new
and extraordinary safety measures that are being implemented on
these pipelines in order to try and ensure that they never have any
kind of issues in terms of significant leaks or spills or
Semmens says drilling underneath the Crawford family's creek is
one of the safety mesaures.
"It's called horizontal directional drilling, where we'll be
drilling several yards below the bedrock below any rivers and major
creeks, so that the pipeline goes under them instead of having the
pipeline resting on the bottom of a river or creek, as done in the
past, and can lead to issues in terms of if the pipeline has a
As for Crawford's concern about what's actually in the pipeline,
Semmens offers the following:
"Saying that it's something new and completely different is
certainly not correct, and diluted bitumin in particular -- we're
talking about the essentially crude oil that's produced from the
Canadian oil sands -- has been proven by many studies to behave
exactly like any other crude oil in a pipeline. It's no more
dangerous or corrosive to a pipeline than any other kind of crude
At the end of the day, Crawford says her family is not against
pipelines or the use of eminent domain when it's bringing water to
a community or building a road for someone. Their issue is that a
foreign corporation, TransCanada, has found the loopholes in the
Texas system to pick up the club of eminent domain.