eminent domain

For-Profit Pipeline Company Claims "Public Benefit" in Seizing Private Lands in Pennsylvania

Activists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, protest fracking at a rally in July 2016.

New and protracted battles in the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) war are breaking out across Pennsylvania and other states near the Marcellus Shale over pipeline companies’ use of eminent domain.

The fiercest battle pits Philadelphia-based Sunoco Logistics against homeowners in the path of a pipeline that crosses Pennsylvania. In a controversial move invoking eminent domain, Sunoco aims to seize private lands to make room for a pipeline extension that would move highly volatile liquids (HVL) used in the making of plastics from the Marcellus Shale region to eastern Pennsylvania.

Texas Ranch Owner Battles TransCanada to Restore Her Pipeline-Scarred Land

Eleanor Fairchild, an 82-year-old grandmother who owns a 425-acre ranch outside of Winnsboro, Texas, has advice for anyone who is asked to sign a contract by a company that wants to build a pipeline to transport tar sands oil on their land: “Don’t sign it.”

During a recent visit to her ranch, I saw the damage to her land caused by the installation of TransCanada’s Gulf Coast Pipeline, which is the original southern route of the Keystone XL pipeline before the project was broken into segments. 

I first met Fairchild in October 2012, a few days after she was arrested, along with environmentalist actress Daryl Hannah. The two had stood in the way of land-moving vehicles on Fairchild’s land where TransCanada had started clearing trees and readying a right-of-way to install its pipeline. At that time, Fairchild was refusing to make a deal with TransCanada, but the company moved forward with clearing her land anyway. 

New York State Refuses Permit for Constitution Pipeline in Major Victory for Anti-Fracking Organizers

In a striking victory for grassroots environmental and community groups, New York state's Department of Environmental Conservation announced on April 22 that it had denied a key permit for a pipeline that would have carried fracked gas from Pennsylvania to planned natural gas export facilities in New York state.

The Constitution Pipeline, planned to stretch 125 feet wide and 124 miles long starting near Dimock, PA and crossing over 275 streams and waterways, would have required the cutting of as many as 700,000 trees in Pennsylvania and New York, part of a build-out project estimated to cost investors as much as $1 billion.

But in recent months, the project faced escalating opposition, not only from larger environmental nonprofits, but also from a coalition of local landowners and activists who adopted tactics ranging from collecting over 15,000 public comments for New York state's review of the project to civil disobedience at federal hearings.

Proposed Marcellus Gas Pipeline Sparks Protest At Prized Maple Farm

Plans to build a major Marcellus shale gas pipeline were briefly paused this month by a protest launched by a collection of community and environmental activists who gathered on the Holleran-Zeffer property in New Milford, PA.

Pipeline company Williams Partners, LLC plans to start clearing trees on the property as early as this week to make way for a proposed 124-mile pipeline stretching across the Pennsylvania-New York border.

Tree felling for Williams' Constitution pipeline project began in Pennsylvania on February 5, before New York state had finished its regulatory approval process. Environmentalists fear that the company hopes to present New York state with a fait accompli on the Pennsylvania side, which would put pressure on New York regulators to approve the expansion on its side of the border.

Federal Court Gives Blessing to Covertly Approved Enbridge Cross-Border Tar Sands Pipeline Expansion

A federal court has ruled that the Enbridge Alberta Clipper (Line 67) cross-border tar sands pipeline expansion project, permitted covertly and behind closed doors by the Obama Administration, got its greenlight in a legal manner. 

The ruling — made by Michael J. Davis, a President Bill Clinton-appointee — comes just over a year after several environmental groups brought a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State for what they said was a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA calls for robust public hearings and public commenting periods for any major proposed energy infrastructure projects, referred to by some as the “Magna Carta of environmental law.”

Obama's Veto of Keystone XL Bittersweet for Texans Forced to Allow the Pipeline on Their Land

As expected, President Obama today vetoed the Republican bill attempting to allow TransCanada to finish constructing the Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline. While the veto received praise from environmentalists, along with encouragement to reject the pipeline entirely, the veto provides little consolation to those in Texas who already have the southern route of the pipeline moving Canadian tar sands under their land. 

“Don't get me wrong. I’m thrilled that President Obama owned up to his promise to veto the Keystone XL pipeline bill today. But in the same breath I'm spittin' mad,” Julia Trigg Crawford, Texas landowner who fought TransCanada from taking her land by eminent domain but lost, told DeSmogBlog.

“Nearly three years ago, with the exact same data in front of him he decided to 'cut through the red tape and fast track' the southern leg of this project. Where was his 'climate test' then?” “Before the ink is dry on this veto, President Obama owes all of us in Texas and Oklahoma an explanation. Better yet, an apology.”


Julia Trigg Crawford next to the easement on her land in Sumner, Texas that TransCanada condemned to build the southern route of the Keystone XL pipeline. ©2013 Julie Dermansky

In the constant clamor from high profile environmental groups for President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, there is little mention that the president fast-tracked the southern portion of the pipeline. Nor do most people know that TransCanada is already transporting tar sands from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

Controversial TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline Criticized By U.S. Farmers and Mayors

Map of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline route across America Farm Belt

A new policy adopted by the US National Farmers Union slams the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would pump bitumen from the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta thousands of miles across America’s farm belt to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas. The Nebraska Farmers Union notes:

“The proposed route of the 1,980-mile pipeline would slice through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. It would cross the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska - source of 30 percent of the nation’s agricultural water and drinking water for millions - with a pipeline carrying diluted bitumen, a thick, heavy, corrosive and toxic form of crude oil associated with pipeline ruptures at 16 times the rate of conventional crude.”

Texans Fight Against TransCanada's Keystone XL Pipeline: Don't Mess With Texas

In East Texas, where pipelines are more a fact of life than a sight for sore eyes, defenders of property rights are teaming up with environmentalists to oppose TransCanada Corporation’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

TransCanada, a Calgary-based company, is proposing 1,959 miles of pipeline destined to run from the tar sands mines of Hardisty, Alberta, by way of Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and concluding its journey at Port Arthur, Texas refineries. The Keystone XL pipeline project is promoted as a promising solution for increased oil access and security for the U.S., which imports some 9 million barrels of oil per day.

The Keystone XL pipeline differs from the many other pipelines crisscrossing Texas since it is foreign-owned. TransCanada is still awaiting approval from the State Department to build it.

Perhaps underestimating Texans’ fierce ethic of individual property rights, TransCanada has taken a heavy-handed approach to gathering local support for this project, according to coverage in the Los Angeles Times. In growing numbers, East Texans are becoming unnerved by a foreign company showing up on their properties unannounced, dictating terms and sending out land agents with complicated easement agreements ready for the landowner to sign. (TransCanada isn’t quite so kind in South Dakota, where the company has filed more than a dozen lawsuits against property owners in an effort to condemn land under “eminent domain.”)

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