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Judge Orders Construction on Keystone XL Pipeline Stopped

Photo of Daniel Horowitz

According to the Houston Chronicle, a Texas judge has ordered TransCanada to temporarily halt work on private property where it is building part of an oil pipeline designed to carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Texas landowner Michael Bishop filed his lawsuit in the Nacogdoches County courthouse, arguing that TransCanada lied to Texans when it said it would be using the Keystone XL pipeline to transport crude oil. Tar sands oil – or diluted bitumen – does not meet the definition as outlined in Texas and federal statutory codes which define crude oil as “liquid hydrocarbons extracted from the earth at atmospheric temperatures,” Bishop said. When tar sands are extracted in Alberta, Canada, the material is almost a solid and “has to be heated and diluted in order to even be transmitted,” he told The Associated Press exclusively. Texas County Court at Law Judge Jack Sinz signed a temporary restraining order and injunction Friday, saying there was sufficient cause to halt work until a hearing Dec. 19. The two-week injunction went into effect Tuesday after Bishop posted bond. David Dodson, a spokesman for TransCanada, said courts have already ruled that tar sands are a form of crude oil. He said the injunction will not delay the project.

In February, another judge briefly halted work on the pipeline in northeast Texas due to archaeological artifacts on the property. The judge later ruled the work could resume. The pipeline is being built, although the landowner is fighting the condemnation of her land. TransCanada wants to build a pipeline to transport tar sands from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, but has encountered roadblocks along the way. To cross the U.S.-Canadian border, the company needs a presidential permit, which was rejected earlier this year by President Barack Obama, who suggested the company reroute to avoid a sensitive environmental area in Nebraska. The company plans to reroute that portion. In the meantime, Obama encouraged the company to pursue a shorter portion of the pipeline from Oklahoma to Texas, which would help relieve a bottleneck in Cushing.

Many Texas landowners have taken to the courts to fight the company’s land condemnations in a state that has long wed its fortunes to oil. Bishop owns 20 acres in Douglass, a town about 160 miles north of Houston. He used to raise poultry and goats on the land where he lives with his wife and 16-year-old daughter, he said, but sold the animals about two years ago because of the planned pipeline. Bishop said he settled under “duress,” so he bought a law book and decided to defend himself. Since then, he has filed a lawsuit in Austin against the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that oversees pipelines, arguing it failed to properly investigate the pipeline and protect groundwater, public health and safety. Aware that the oil giant could have a battery of lawyers and experts at the hearing later this month, Bishop, a 64-year-old retired chemist currently in medical school, said he is determined to fight. “Bring ’em on. I’m a United States Marine. I’m not afraid of anyone. I’m not afraid of them,” he said. “When I’m done with them, they will know that they’ve been in a fight. I may not win, but I’m going to hurt them.”

If you or someone you know has had their property damaged or water contaminated by an oil or gas pipeline, contact the attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or 800-594-4884.

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