The Battle Against the Keystone Pipeline

Environmentalists and landowners battle to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and its load of crude from flowing across Texas rivers and aquifers.

When Bishop balked, TransCanada took him to court again and won the right to take possession of a strip through his land. He appealed and eventually the two parties entered mediation. They finally arrived at a number he could stomach in November. "I had to get the best deal for my family I could get," says Bishop, who has a 16-year-old daughter.

But the more he dwelt on it, the madder he got. A powerful foreign corporation had taken by force what belonged to him, Bishop figured, so Canadians could get a better price for their crude. Now he flies his American flag upside down in a symbol of distress. He believes he is under siege, and as he looks out toward the county road, it is hard for him to forget it; two off-duty sheriff's deputies pulling guard duty for TransCanada are sitting in idling sheriff's office SUVs.

"Why are they here?" he asks. "Did you see any worker vehicles or equipment?"

Members of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department drag away a protester who chained himself to construction equipment.
Photos by Brandon Thibodeaux
Members of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department drag away a protester who chained himself to construction equipment.
A deputy uses pepper spray to drive away others gathered around a cherry picker used to extract protesters on platforms in 40-foot-high pine trees outside Alto, Texas, in November.
Photos by Brandon Thibodeaux
A deputy uses pepper spray to drive away others gathered around a cherry picker used to extract protesters on platforms in 40-foot-high pine trees outside Alto, Texas, in November.

If it all seems a tad theatrical, he says, come see his land when TransCanada starts burying pipe. "Far as I'm concerned, I'm being invaded by a Canadian corporation."

Bishop isn't the kind of guy who knows when to quit. Even after he'd already taken TransCanada's money, he sued the Texas Railroad Commission in an Austin federal court in November, challenging the agency's certification of the pipeline's common carrier status, which allowed the company to condemn land.

And in December, he sued TransCanada itself, alleging the company misled him about the pipeline's contents. For two years, he says, he's been asking for a list of the chemical compounds that will move beneath his land, but has received nothing. That's probably because federal regulations don't require operators to disclose what kind of petroleum is moving through their lines.

On December 7, Nacogdoches County Court at Law Judge Jack Sinz granted Bishop a temporary restraining order against TransCanada. Bishop was elated. The fight was on, he told me. But within days, TransCanada got an emergency hearing before the judge. At around 8 a.m., December 13, Bishop bent over the plaintiff's table in an empty courtroom, nervously thumbing through his notes. His rumpled blazer dangled from a chair. James Freeman, a Houston lawyer representing TransCanada, entered the courtroom in a sharp dark gray suit.

As the often testy hearing got under way, Freeman introduced what he believed was the only document that counted: a settlement agreement the company and Bishop had signed just over a month before. It was for $65,000 — $35,000 to pay off what Bishop owed the Texas Veterans Land Board for 14 acres of his 20-acre tract. The rest went to Bishop and his lawyer.

"He owns [the 14 acres] courtesy of Keystone," Freeman told the judge, whom he seemed to be equally irritated with. Sinz, in fact, allowed TransCanada to condemn Bishop's land. "I've got a writ from you giving me possession. I don't know that you've actually restrained us from building anything."

But did it give him the right to transport diluted bitumen? the judge asked.

"It would be a refined crude petroleum," Freeman responded. "It's a catch-all for ­everything."

The Texas Legislature had defined crude oil clearly, Bishop interjected, and diluted bitumen does not qualify.

Whatever fears he held, Freeman responded, were no longer relevant once he settled with TransCanada. "That's what was negotiated, that's what was granted and that's what he has to live with."

"I've got the truth on my side," Bishop responded. "There's been so much malarkey shoveled in this courtroom, I can't sort through it." He talked about the diluted bitumen spill on the Keystone I line in North Dakota, and about the million gallons that issued from the Enbridge line in Michigan.

When, the judged asked him, did he realize the pipeline would carry diluted bitumen?

"I started doing research when they started condemnation proceedings," Bishop replied. "He's come and done everything to me except kill my animals and rape my wife! The legal documents are saying crude oil when it's not crude oil."

"But did you know it was bitumen when you settled?" the judge pressed.

"I did know when I settled."

"So how can you claim fraud?"

"If someone put a 9 mm to your head, what would you do?"

"But where was the 9 mm?"

"They've lied to everybody. They lied to me. I was compelled to settle. I was forced to settle...I'll give him his money back. I don't like him. I don't like his company."

"I feel like I have no choice..." the judge said. Construction of the pipeline, he ruled, could continue across Bishop's land. Bishop gathered up his notes and exited the courtroom, looking dazed. In the coming weeks, Sinz will decide whether he even has jurisdiction in Bishop's case. It may be left up to the local district court to decide whether this case is about a contract breached, or about land condemned legally or fraudulently. Later that day, Bishop asked, "How do you fight a ­multibillion-dollar corporation?"
_____________________

A few hundred feet from the banks of the Angelina River, protesters were suspended from the trees. They perched atop platforms anchored to heavy equipment. If the machinery moved, or if the tethers were cut, they would fall. Deputies and police officers with the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, the Rusk Police and the Alto Police clutched zip-cuffs and fanned out in the woods to keep other protesters at bay.

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16 comments
Miles Yao
Miles Yao

Can we pull a Castle Law here? Get yer shotgun out!

Mary Urech Stallings
Mary Urech Stallings

State Law? Didn't the Supreme Court uphold anybody taking your land for whatever they want to pay for whatever reason? Now, that's effed up.

Na Li
Na Li

it's always been that way - they want they get - landowner gets too but screwed isn't that much financially

Craig Wilkins
Craig Wilkins

Where are all the "Don't Tread On Me" people now? Or is it socialism to stand up to businesses? Jesus. I hate everything sometimes.

captainmike81
captainmike81

Might as well refine Canadian bitumen is Texas as Texas is the largest polluter in North America. Most people don't know that the US exports crude oil. Next is natural gas in LNG to foreign countries. Most people are taken being taken for suckers by everyone from government to energy companies. 

Jake Rawls
Jake Rawls

Affects the Texans? Does this mean Arian Foster won't do well tomorrow?

Hugh Bishop
Hugh Bishop

It's just a couple of miles from my house. I have several friends in the area that have it running right behind their property line.

keystonelonestar
keystonelonestar

Conservative protecting private property rights by seizing private property?  Reminds me of how they make government smaller by passing laws that expand government power; how they spend less money by spending more money; how they discredit science by making shit up; and how they stop frivolous lawsuits by filing frivolous lawsuits against the NCAA.

Mudrake2
Mudrake2

Oh, please not again. When will you liberal scientific illiterate "journalists" stop tauting the discredited (by actual scientists without an agenda) man-made global warming. If you had half a brain, you would realize the contradictions in your story. First, the sands "crude" is so thick it poses little or no risk to anything. If it is being pumped at 150F to keep it "liquefied" what do you think will happen in event of a spill? I will immediately cool and turn into something akin to asphalt. Then bring out the front end loaders and shovel it up. I guess we are ringing our hands over all those asphalt roads criss crossing the state too? As an environmental consultant for 8 years and a geoscientist of some 33 years’ experience, I have seen enough enviro-hysteria to make me want to vomit. This is not about the environment, its about politics. These ass clown kids are nothing more than pawns and useless pawns at that. They have no lives and are seeking to bring some kind of meaning to their worthless existence. They undoubtedly moved to the unsuccessful occupy movement to this. They are a few missed meals or picket lines from being homeless. One man's protest is another man's criminal trespass. Barry's gambit to halt the pipeline is just another step in his attempt to cripple the US and its oil industry. Its okay to drill offshore Brazil but not here, why? It’s not the environment, its transfer of wealth.

WRUPPELT
WRUPPELT

@Hugh Bishop Hu is giving them the Permit, to Du what ever they ( Keystone ) want?

                          The property rights in Texas has been taking away by our so called

                           Law makers and Mr. not so smart Governor Perry! Or shall we say

                           the Tea Party of Texas!!!    

Mudrake2
Mudrake2

Turn Brazil into an oil exporting nation and we'll have to send more of our dollars their increasing their standard of living while slowly lowering ours. Biofuels gives him a hard on, not because it is green but because it puts money in his friends pockets. Biofuel production actually uses more fuel than it saves. If you knew how heat and fuel extensive distillation of alcohol is, you'd know that. The only way its economic is with government subsidies that would make you cry. So ethanol probably costs way more per gallon to produce than the gasoline it is purported to save. Americans are such scientific illiterates that this kind of nonsense is pushed right under their noses by their elected officials and they don't have a clue. It is really and truly pathetic. If the first oil discoveries made in Texas were done so today, they would undoubtedly would have been no Spindletop, East Texas Field, or Permian Basin. They would all have been protested into oblivion on environmental grounds. Do you see any lingering effects of those efforts back when oil ran on the ground like water when it was being produced?

poeducker
poeducker

@Mudrake2 You are stupid.  Global warming is gonna kill your grand kids dead.  The US & other industrialized countries have screwed off over global warming for so long it looks like it will  kill humanity dead.  Then the planet can hum along for several million years & try something new besides humans.  Serves us right.

 
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