Keystone XL

There’s truth to the name “Railroad” Commission: Action Request

The stuffed suits were stuffed in the room at the Sunset Advisory Commission hearing on Wednesday, December 19th.  It was a terrible time to hold a hearing and it was a terribly important hearing.  But was anyone really heard?

Yes, we know it’s the yuletide season, but we couldn’t celebrate the holiday without at least attempting to inform you of the broad array of community activists, landowners, pipeline safety advocates and political reformers that attended a hearing on Wednesday, December 19th, held by the Sunset Advisory Commission.  The Sunset Commission was empowered by the legislature in 1977 to, ” identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in government agencies.”

Folks from across the state who are concerned with protecting our resources — land and water, in particular — testified about the need for thoroughgoing reform of the Railroad Commission.

The unlikely coalition comes together at Sunset Advisory Commission hearing - Debra Medina (We Texans), Rita Beving (391 Commissions) and Dick Guildi, Richardson resident

These reforms go far beyond the proposal to simply change the name of the Commission to better reflect what it does – since the RRC’s primary function is to regulate the oil and gas industry, including pipelines.  Still, the legislature has continued to fail to even change the name.

Julia Trigg Crawford still fighting TransCanada's eminent domain abuse

There are far deeper problems with the RRC that have been festering for years as it has really served as a lapdog for the oil and gas industry. We can begin with the fact that they are allowed to take unlimited contributions from the very industries they are regulating.  (Perhaps this is why the leading “change” to the Commission continues to be the name change.)  One is forced to understand why RRC member David Porter, in justification for his opposition to shutting off these contributions, that all statewide officials are allowed to do the same so why not the RRC!

East Texas landowners, Mr. & Mrs. David Holland, with Chris Wilson (center), fighting TransCanada's eminent domain abuse

We have attempted to cover at least some of the ongoing fight about the Keystone XL (TransCanada) pipeline.  (And, in fairness, they’re not the only pipeline we need to worry about.)  Our unlikely coalition is coming together to raise the more perplexing questions about eminent domain abuse and the intractable problems, particularly with our water supply, that could stem from a pipeline breach.  Then there’s the fracking issue and the many questions that remain and new ones arising.

Sharon Wilson, Dallas (r), Cathy McMullen (Denton), fighting for fracking safety measures at: http://www.texassharon.com/ and http://dentondrilling.blogspot.com

Perhaps our problems really aren’t all the problems listed above.  Though these are not easy problems to resolve because the answers are often murky and are multi-faceted. The real problem is becoming increasingly clear to we ordinary Texans.  Our officials are incapable of working together, in an honest way, through the murky details of this moment in the history of our state, country and world.  There IS a real tension now between the increased scarcity of resources and the increased demands of so many people moving to Texas.  What are we going to do about that, besides allow our officials to ignore the problems or carry water (pun intended) for industry — the people be damned?

Ramsey Sprague, protest supporter, longtime Green

Folks, they’re not going to get it until we do.  We must dump the partisanship that is rendering us powerless to work together as Texans and as Americans to strike the balance and to find new and creative solutions we so desperately need.

This next legislative session is another opportunity for us to learn more as citizen activists and to build bridges to citizens across the state – rural and urban, conservatives and liberals, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens and the many more of us who just think of ourselves as plain ol’ small “i” independents.

You can watch the hearing on Wednesday here at this site.  Just click on the date “Dec 19”.  You’ll have to scroll through until you get to the testimony on the Railroad Commission at:  http://www.senate.state.tx.us/avarchive/?yr=2012

CALL TO ACTION — here’s what you can do:

What are we asking for?  At least two things:

1.  To pass meaningful legislation to prohibit contributions to statewide elected officials, including the Railroad Commission, from companies (including their employees) that have business or disputes before those bodies.

2.  To meaningfully close the “T4 loophole” that allows the Railroad Commission to effectively give pipeline companies the right to claim common carrier status without any oversight whatsoever.  This gives pipeline companies the automatic power to use eminent domain to seize private property for private gain.

These are very modest requests in light of this report in the NY Times about our Governor and the reputation Texas has garnered for our seemingly unlimited commitment to corporate welfare:  Texas Gives Industries a Bonanza

If you read this article with enough time today, December 21st, to send a comment to the Sunset Advisory Commission — click here to send an email.

If you read this after December 21st, or in addition to meeting the above request, please contact your Texas House and Texas Senate legislators (go here for a full list).  Ask them to fight for FULL and REAL eminent domain and campaign finance reforms in this session.

Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year y’all!  Get some rest, we’re all surely gonna need it!

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No Eminent Domain for Private Gain Town Hall(s)!

Whether you can get to this important event on November 7th, in Cuero, Texas, please pass this on through your networks and call your State Representative and State Senator.  Ask them to hold a similar town hall where you live to help reform eminent domain in Texas.  They can’t have it both ways.  They can’t say they support property rights but give pipeline operators a blank check, as is the common practice by the Texas Railroad Commission and most of our state officials.

Click here for the details on the Cuero, Texas Town Hall on Wednesday, November 7, 920 East Broadway Street: Cuero Town Hall

You might want to read this excellent article in today’s American Free Press.

Sign up on this site to get Independent Texans’ emails if you’re not already.

Debra Medina, We Texans
Terri Hall, Texans United for Reform and Freedom
Linda Curtis, Independent Texans
512-535-0989

 

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Updates on Eminent Domain, Local Foods & Local Organizing!

Here are some important updates and events:

Eminent Domain   

There’s a lot of news we’re sure you’ve been reading in the regular press about the TransCanada, including this breaking news on protests in NE Texas to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.  Our question is why isn’t somebody doing something to protect the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer that serves 12 million people?

Check out what these brave farmers and landowners, who call themselves the Brazos River Bottom Alliance, are doing to protect their land from seizures by Union Pacific.

Read this new piece on about how NE Texans are organizing “391 Commissions” to protect their land, water and property rights.

Farm and Ranch and Local Foods:

We have been remiss in not mentioning this important event for farmers, ranchers and the many of us who like having our food grown locally.

Click here for the details on this year’s FARFA conference in Bastrop, next Monday and Tuesday.

GMA 12 Keeping Our Water Local: (for central Texas)

A hearing on the ALCOA application for a huge (25,000 acre-feet) amount of groundwater from the acquifer serving GMA (Groundwater Management Area) 12.  Click here for the details from our friends at Environmental Stewardship.

Aqua Water is also holding it’s yearly water forum, this time with Keep Bastrop Beautiful on September 18th.  This is a great opportunity to ask Texas Ag Commission, Todd Staples, how we can keep groundwater local.

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Cities form 391 Commission Out of Concern regarding Southern Segment of Keystone’s Tar Sand Pipeline

About one year ago, three small cities in East Texas, located south of Jacksonville, formed the East Texas SubRegional Planning Commission (ETSRPC).  The ETSRPC is a 391 Commission, formed out of concern for numerous issues surrounding TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. The initial cities consisted of Gallatin and Reklaw. Later, the city of Alto also joined.  All three cities are within Region 6 in the state of Texas with populations of less than 1200 citizens.

The 391 Commission is part of  the Texas Government Code, established in 1987, that allows at least 2 or more cities, counties, or combination thereof, to form a sub-regional entity within a region to work together to make plans or discover answers for their communities on matters of concern.

The formation of a 391 elevates a city and/or counties position with state and federal agencies, as it gives the 391 the power of a regional government recognized by the state, requiring agencies to “coordinate” their activities around issues and answer questions regarding issues of concern.

Basically, when a 391 is formed, the groups involved have a bigger voice in what happens in regards to a project within their geographical jurisdiction.  In the case of the Keystone XL pipeline, the 391 can ask questions and expect answers from agencies such as the Railroad Commission, TCEQ, Army Corps of Engineers, etc. over various issues that apply to a project or issue of concern.  During the Trans-Texas Corridor controversy, several 391 Commissions were formed in opposition to the proposed road project, with the end result being the road not coming to fruition.

Gallatin, Reklaw  and Alto formed the 391 Commission for the following reasons regarding the Keystone XL pipeline:

1) Water:  The cities are concerned about their municipal wells being contaminated should a spill occur and what alternatives they would have to have potable water.  Tar sands crude is laden with far more chemicals and pollutants than conventional crude, and these cities are also concerned about the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer that underlies their water supplies.

2) Emergency Response:  A tar sand spill is a hazardous material spill.  Since it is not conventional crude, there is concern regarding how these towns’ voluntary fire departments would deal with such a spill.  On the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, where a tar sands spill occurred involving the Keystone Pipeline, residents were evacuated at least six miles from the spill site due to benzene and hydrogen sulfide levels that were at dangerously high exposure levels.

3) Liability and Safety:  The tar sand spills in Kalamazoo, Michigan have cost more than $800 million.  It was the largest and most expensive onshore spill in U.S. history according to the National Transportation Safety Board.  The spill has taken more than two years to clean up.  Since TransCanada doesn’t have to pay into the U.S. spill fund due to an IRS exemption, a real question that deserves a real answer is what would be the liability for these local municipalities, the county, or state should a spill occur?  On TransCanada’s new Keystone 1 line, the company has already had more than twelve spills in less than one year.

The East Texas Subregional Planning Commission formed to preserve the “health, safety and welfare of their residents and plan for future development of their communities for almost any activity.”   In July, the 391 Commission joined a suit against the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the water crossing permits needed by TransCanada.  Currently, the suit is on appeal at the 10th circuit court in Denver.

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Lamar County Judge Harris Rules by IPhone — TransCanada Can Take Our Land!

Lamar County Judge Bill Harris really took the cake yesterday evening.  His 15 word ruling, sent via his iPhone (and likely blind copied to a member of the media), granted TransCanada summary judgement.  Yes, according to Harris, TransCanada can come on in and take Julia Trigg Crawford and fame’s land.

For your information, we kept our mouths shut on how we were treated in his courtroom two weeks ago.  We didn’t want to hurt Julia’s case.  But now we can tell you he treated us like naughty children, made no provisions for seating — many of us had to sit on the floor.  He threatened us numerous times for merely moving in and out of the courtroom.  And, more importantly, he carefully ridiculed Julia Trigg Crawford for being an “activist.”

We hope this case isn’t the end of this fight.  But that is up to a lot of people, including many Texans, who have had enough of the lack of balance between property owners and the pipeline industry — and the yahoos who are running this state.  I’m talking about the Governor and the Railroad Commission, who have yet to mention anything about the fact that this pipeline will cross the great Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer that serves 12 million people.

Our resources — land and water — are precious.  We need to make the politician’s pay the price for what they are doing to Texas and Texans.

Therefore, we ask that you call your State representative RIGHT NOW and let them know that you have a problem with the State of Texas leaving land owners and aquifers unprotected.  Tell them you won’t stand for them staying quiet on this issue and that you’re not going away.  Find out who represents you here: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/.

Linda Curtis
Independent Texans

PS  Those of you who live in central Texas, be aware that Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt may be your State Representative.  He is Vice-Chair of the Land and Resource Management Committee that has held one hearing so far on eminent domain abuse.  He wasn’t friendly to landowners, so call him!

Press Release

For Immediate Release
Contacts:  Debra Medina, We Texans, 512.663.8401, Terri Hall, TURF, 210.275.0640, Linda Curtis, Independent Texans, 512.657.2089, Jessica Ellison, Texans for Accountable Government, 512.653.9179,

Ruling on Keystone XL pipeline
Texas Landowner Julia Trigg Crawford  and other landowners  lose major battle to protect themselves from takings of Private Property by Foreign companies
Reaction from former Gubernatorial Candidate Debra Medina and Statewide Groups As Canadian Company Prepares To Begin Pipeline Construction
(Paris, Texas ) A judge today ruled in favor of the controversial Keytone  XL pipeline, allowing them to act as common carrier and giving them to right to condemn land for use as a pipeline.

“Since the Texas Railroad Commission determined way back in 2008 that it had no jurisdiction over TransCanada’s interstate pipeline, it simply defies logic that TransCanada is allowed to take private citizens’ land under a Texas law that requires a pipeline operator to subject itself to the Commission’s juridsiction,” said Wendi Hammond, attorney for landowner.  “The Texas Supreme Court has repeatedly held that if there is an incident of doubt regarding the power of eminient domain authority, then a court must rule in favor of the landowner. Unfortunately, this judge failed to do so.”  Wendi Hammond, the attorney for the landowner

“Judge’s Harris disappointing decision today further highlights the vulnerable and precarious position that Texas landowners are in” said Debra Medina, former Republican candidate for Governor  “ These cases are often argued in county courts poorly equipped to assess such weighty legal questions.  These courts lack the resources to properly consider the complex and voluminous evidence assembled by multibillion dollar corporations.”

“These are pipelines carrying poisons, not for oil independence in our country, but for export, from a foreign land, through our pipelines, to a port that’s going to ship them to foreign lands. These aren’t common carriers for the common good of Texans  — this is a  pipeline designed to speed  oil through Texas,. There are no on or off ramps to this pipeline in Texas and as a result it should not have been permitted to use eminent domain to condemn Texans lands .” Said Tom “Smitty”  Smith of Public Citizen

“The Texas Supreme Court was clear in Denbury that private companies have to prove their project qualifies as a true ‘public use’ before it can exercise eminent domain. We’re disappointed in the Judge’s decision, but we’re confident that the Crawford’s will eventually prevail. This decision puts the onus on the Texas legislature to remedy the outrageous eminent domain abuse taking place in our state, ” said Terri Hall, Director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom. “The time for talk is over. Texans are losing their land because of poor oversight and the legislature’s refusal to address the heart of the problem. Texans aren’t going to accept the crumbs we’ve been handed, cloaked as eminent domain reform. It’s time to get serious before irreparable harm is needlessly inflicted upon Texans.”

Recently, the Texas House Land and Resource Management Committee met at the Capitol to hear invited testimony from Crawford and other interested parties regarding the dilemma of industries self-proclaiming they are common carriers with no review from any state agency as to whether a company is truly a common carrier or not. The House Energy Management Committee has also held hearing on pipeline safety issues.

Linda Curtis, director of Indy Texans. Noted, “Ms. Crawford’s case is emblematic of the continuing struggle of Texas landowners being tread upon by a private company taking land for private use, and foreign profit.  TransCanada has yet to provide any evidence that they have the legal authority to seize property in Texas”

” TransCanada used the Commission’s T-4 permit  as an authorization to take Texans land for a private for-profit, foreign pipeline project.  There was no vetting or review by the Commission of a pipeline company’s self-designation as a common carrier. The commission  says  that it has no control over eminent domain.  The legislature needs to fix this mess and assure that landowners rights and the environment are protected.  ” said Chris Wynnyk Wilson  of the Stop Tar Sands Oil Pipelines ( STOP)

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Austin is Not Developers’ Monopoly Board

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Austin is Not Developers' Monopoly Board

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Make Growth Pay for Itself

No Vista Ridge/San Antone Hose

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