Appeals court to determine eminent domain powers of TransCanada Keystone Pipeline

In a few weeks, an appeals court will hear arguments on whether a Beaumont judge erred by granting a foreign company’s petition to condemn land for the construction of a crude oil pipeline.  In June 2011, TransCanada Keystone Pipeline filed the petition for condemnation against Texas Rice Land Partners, James and David Holland and Mike and Walter Latta. TransCanada filed the petition seeking to build a pipeline to carry crude from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. On Sept. 24 Judge Tom Rugg, who was presiding over the Jefferson County Court at Law No. 1  at that time, ruled that the company has the right to seize land in Jefferson County for the pipeline. A month later, Texas Rice Land Partners filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, court records show. Justices seated on the Texas Ninth District Court of Appeals in Beaumont will hear oral arguments on March 7. In its appeal, Texas Rice Land Partners argues that the “trial court abused its discretion by refusing to require TransCanada to establish its authority as a common carrier before granting TransCanada possession of Texas rice property.” “TransCanada does not have the power of eminent domain because it is not a common carrier and the pipeline is not a common carrier pipeline.” Conversely, TransCanada argues in court papers that the pipeline is a common carrier pipeline available for public use and that the foreign company is a common carrier. During a Sept. 12 hearing, Terry Wood, the attorney for the rice farmers, attempted to link the TransCanda case to a ruling made by the Texas Supreme Court in August 2011 denying Denbury Green common carrier status in a pipeline project of its own. However, the Denbury pipeline would have carried CO2, not crude oil. TransCanada is represented by Thomas Zabel, attorney for the Houston law firm Zabel Freeman. Jefferson County case No. 118867 Appeals case No. 09-12-00484

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