The miniature Eiffel Tower of Paris, Texas. (Photo by KB35.)

Julia Trigg Crawford manages a farm in northeast Texas that’s been in her family since 1948. The 600-acre property sits on the Red River, near the city of Paris, famous for its replica Eiffel Tower topped with a red cowboy hat. It’s like a Texas stereotype come to life.

Crawford’s property also sits directly between where TransCanada has some tar-sands oil and where it wants that oil to go. The southern section of the Keystone XL pipeline, which recently got a final approval, will cut through the northeastern part of Texas — as planned, through Crawford’s property. Crawford preferred that it not and rejected the company’s buyout offer. So TransCanada instead sought to seize the property through eminent domain. As described on the Crawford family website:

They legally had the power to do this because — and you’re not going to believe this — they simply checked a box on a “T4” form for the Texas Railroad Commission (the body that regulates the oil and gas industry in Texas) that says ‘common carrier.’ Common carrier status carries with it the power of eminent domain — the right to seize property. Meanwhile, the Railroad Commission openly states that they have no regulatory authority to make sure that a private company does not abuse the power of eminent domain.

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The case went before Lamar County Court-at-Law judge Bill Harris. Yesterday, he handed down his ruling: TransCanada is a common carrier, and may therefore:

… enter on and condemn the land, rights-of-way, easements, and property of any person or corporation necessary for the construction, maintenance, or operation of the common carrier pipeline.

The owner of a pipeline in Texas can exercise eminent domain, condemning and seizing your property to transport its fuel. That’s the law.

Crawford bashed the decision, amazed that Harris “wholly dismissed our entire case with a 15-word ruling sent from his iPhone.”

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In other TransCanada news, the company was cited by Canadian regulators yesterday for failing to meet safety standards on the pump stations for its Keystone pipeline. We doubt that will make Crawford feel much better when she looks out in a few months time and sees that pipeline running along the river on her family’s property. But in Texas, oil comes first.

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