SE Texas Record

Saturday, January 18, 2020

TransCanada seeks to dismiss suit brought by arrested pipeline protesters

By David Yates | Apr 1, 2015

On March 30, TransCanada Keystone Pipeline filed a motion to dismiss a federal suit brought by two protesters who claim deputies abused them as they peacefully protested the placement of the XL pipeline on contested land.

As previously reported, Benjamin Franklin-Sequoyah Craft-Rendon and Shannon Kathleen Bebe filed a lawsuit against TransCanada and the Wood County Sheriff’s Department on Sept. 16 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas.

The suit has since been transferred to the Tyler Division.

According to the plaintiffs’ amended petition, in September 2012 TransCanada began construction on the part of its Keystone XL Pipeline that ran through Wood County, Texas.

Multiple groups of individuals, including local property owners who stood to lose their lands as a result of the application of eminent domain or TransCanada’s misleading tactics to garner consent, continued their ongoing campaign of political mobilization, complete with civil disobedience tactics to delay construction, the suit states.

The protesters allege that the Wood County Sheriff’s Department sprayed pepper spray on their arms and used a tazer while arresting them for criminal trespass after refusing to unchain themselves from a piece of heavy equipment being used to construct the pipeline on a piece of private property without the owner’s consent.

TransCanada allegedly aided and abetted the deputy’s actions by conspiring with the Wood County defendants to use excessive force against them.

In its motion to dismiss, TransCanada argues the complaint contains no factual allegations that any of its representatives were actually on site at the time.

“Instead, it contained vague speculative allegations referring first to an unidentified ‘representative of Defendants TransCanada’ and then to another unidentified individual described as ‘an apparently senior and powerful representative’ of some unspecified TransCanada entity,” the motion states.

Despite the plaintiffs amending their petition, TransCanada maintains the protesters still do not allege any facts to show that it authorized or directed employees of its independent contractors to use, or encourage others to use, excessive force on the trespassers.

“The new factual allegations stated in Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint still utterly fail to state claims against TransCanada Keystone for either aiding and abetting or conspiring with the Wood County Sheriff’s Department to violate Plaintiffs’ civil rights,” the motion states.

“TransCanada Keystone Pipeline LP prays that the Court dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims against it with prejudice and without leave to amend given that Plaintiffs have already been permitted to amend to address these issues, and grant it all such other and further relief to which it is justly entitled.”

Because of the incident, the plaintiffs claims they incurred medical costs, experienced mental anguish and disfigurement and suffered physical impairment. They also lost earnings and their earning capacities and experienced physical pain and suffering.

They seek actual and punitive damages, plus attorney fees, pre-judgment interest, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Attorney Burke Austin Moore of Pearland represents them.

Houston attorney Jack Carnegie of Strasburger & Price represents TransCanada.

Case No. 6:15-cv-00374-MHS

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