From Texas to Michigan, what big government and allied corporations want, they usually get. But some citizens are fighting back.
In Texas, when Lamar County Judge Bill Harris ruled on Aug. 22 in favor of TransCanada extending its controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline — deciding that TransCanada qualifies as a “common carrier” and can forcibly take private land from north-Texas farmer Julia Trigg Crawford — he laid the groundwork for the Alberta-based company to run roughshod over any Texan in the pipeline’s path.
This is done with a well-oiled “legal” land-grabbing process called eminent domain. Yet there is a lack of evidence that TransCanada meets the statutory requirements of a common carrier whose pipeline is a legitimate public use, as noted in a press release from Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, an activist group teaming up with the group We Texans in a battle that resembles the long fight over the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC).
That fight led to the TTC’s apparent abolition as a formal project in state law. However, the TTC, a “free-trade turnpike” that may plow through a living room near you, reportedly has been resurrected, via legal tricks, to haunt Texas ranchers once again (see TexasTURF.org)
Just as the TTC, the widest super-tollway ever conceived, would allow an even bigger deluge of Chinese-made merchandise into America — arriving at Mexican ocean ports and sent by truck and rail into the US — the Keystone would transport thick “tar sands” oil sludge, at a high temperature that puts great stress on the 1,700-mile pipeline, from Canada to Texas oil refineries, with the final product going, at least partly, to China.
“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 jurisdiction,” Wendi Hammond, Ms. Crawford’s amazed lawyer, was quoted as saying. “The Texas Supreme Court has repeatedly held that if there is an incident of doubt regarding the power of eminent domain authority, then a court must rule in favor of the landowner. Unfortunately, this judge failed to do so.”
Ms. Crawford told this writer that fortunately she has received donations for her legal defense and will appeal this ruling before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Texarkana, Texas, perhaps in early October. And she’s relieved that the appellate court is accustomed to complicated matters.
“Judge Harris’s disappointing decision ... further highlights the vulnerable and precarious position that Texas landowners are in,” commented Debra Medina, the former Republican candidate for governor who, in 2010 debates, tripped up eternal Texas Gov. Rick Perry. “These courts lack the resources to properly consider the complex and voluminous evidence assembled by multi-billion dollar corporations.”
Tom Smith of Public Citizen concurred that pipelines like Keystone XL carry an environmentally hazardous sludge, not for the nation’s oil independence “but for export, from a foreign land [Canada], through our pipelines, to a port that’s going to ship [the processed product] to foreign lands.”
Smith added: “These are not ‘common carriers’ for the ‘common good’ of Texans — this is a pipeline designed to speed oil through Texas ... ”
Meanwhile, Michigan heritage pig farmer Mark Baker — who raises open-range pigs in order to sell the gourmet pork to chefs without having used growth hormones and antibiotics — needs help in his battle against a Department of Natural Resources that not only arbitrarily labeled his pigs “feral,” but also tried to force him to shoot his own pigs (see more at BakersGreenAcres.com). Baker refused. However, other hog farmers succumbed to the threats from the state. One shot 70 of his own animals, including piglets.
But Baker told this writer that he sued DNR before it could sue him. And on Oct. 15 he will be in Marquette County District Court to hopefully settle an ordeal that has nearly bankrupted him and his family, whose farm is in Marion.
Lest anyone think this odd DNR extension of the state’s Invasive Species Act to include hogs is dandy, Baker has considerable evidence that the DNR is trying to clear family hog farmers out of the marketplace on behalf of those smelly confined hog operations that brutalize their animals and produce a shoddy corporate product besides.
Examining the big picture, it’s strange that the modern capitalist scolds those who seek government assistance — until it’s time to grab land or rig the marketplace with the government’s help.
Mark Anderson is a journalist who divides his time between Texas and Michigan. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2012
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