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Monday, July 8, 2013

Michael Bishop's stand against TransCanada's Keystone XL in Douglass, TX, Nacogdoches Co.

From EcoWatch:

[Editor's note: Thanks to Michael Bishop for providing EcoWatch this firsthand account of what happens when a company like TransCanada claims eminent domain on one's property and begins building a tar sands pipeline—the southern leg of the Keystone XL. Unfortunately, this is one of many examples of corporations putting profits before human health and the environment in pursuit of extreme fossil fuel extraction. The good news is that people like Michael Bishop are fighting back. This is the first of a four-part series. Read Part II, Part III and Part IV. ALL PARTS INCLUDED BELOW. SEE ALSO HIS LETTER APPEALING FOR UNITY AMONG GREENS.

Part I. One man's stand against the Keystone XL
My name is Michael Bishop and I am a landowner in Douglass, Texas, in Nacogdoches County. I am the victim of eminent domain by a foreign, private corporation. I received a letter from TransCanada in 2008 informing me that my property had been selected as a potential route for their “crude oil” pipeline. At that time, the line was to go on the eastern border of my property and would cross my creek. It was also going to adversely affect my neighbors as well.

On November 13, 2012, TransCanada started bulldozing Michael Bishop’s property to build the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline in Nacogdoches, Texas. Photo courtesy of Tar Sands Blockade.

My neighbors and I met with the company’s representatives. At that meeting, I offered them a suitable and reasonable alternative on the western edge of my property where existing pipelines were located. They informed us that we “could not tell them where to put their pipeline, according to Texas law.” I left that meeting feeling helpless and betrayed by the very laws that are supposed to protect me and other people in this state.

It was something beyond my control and I simply forgot about it until my wife woke me up one morning to let me know people were on our property. I immediately went out and confronted the trespassers who informed me they represented TransCanada and that they were there to perform historical and archeological evaluations and to survey the route of the proposed pipeline. I immediately told them to leave my property. They had not notified me, given me the courtesy of a phone call or knocked on my door. I was told that if I refused to allow them access to my property, I would go to jail. As a former Marine, this became a major point of anger for me and I told them that if they did not leave my property, I would call 911. They left. I did not hear anything from them for quite some time.

When they decided to move forward with the project, I was called by two members of the survey team—Bob Johnston and Chad Wren—who wanted to meet with me to discuss the “new” route for the pipeline. I took a witness with me and met them for coffee. I was told at that meeting that the company (TransCanada) had decided the best route was indeed on the western edge of my property. I told them that I did not want any money from them, would move any buildings or equipment in their way and would sign any releases they required as long as they agreed to stay on the western edge of the property and away from the 14-acre tract of land where I raised my boys and where my six grandchildren now play.

The western edge of my property is also away from where I raise food for my family since 1988. I was told by those two individuals that I was one of the few people in the county that had “not settled” and that TransCanada had all of their construction permits in place and were ready to begin work. We agreed, shook hands and I left with a fairly good feeling. It’s important to remember that I refused any compensation for the right of way they were seeking.

Time went by and I had heard nothing from the two representatives from TransCanada, so I emailed Johnston. He finally responded but informed me that the company had decided to come across my 14 acre tract (the homestead tract) instead of the “free offer” of the adjacent, adjoining six acre tract where existing pipelines already existed. I was furious and felt betrayed. His explanation was, “Your neighbor in the land behind you has a lake that we cannot bore under and therefore we had to reroute the pipeline.”

That neighbor’s lake is a small cattle “tank,” not a pond, and I couldn’t drown in it if I was trying to commit suicide. I told them to f**k off and that I would fight them.

Part II.  U.S. marine battles TransCanada in court over eminent domain for Keystone XL

Michael Bishop in 1969.

I served honorably in the U.S. Marine Corps and have never been known to back down from a fight. In June of 2010, I received a phone call from the TransCanada Pipeline representative who informed me that he was at the front of my property with a deputy sheriff and the TransCanada attorney. I went up there, recognized the deputy and asked him “what in the hell was going on?” He told me that he was off-duty and being paid by TransCanada to ensure that “I didn’t do anything violent” and introduced me to the attorney, who promptly served me with a Temporary Restraining Order. It was signed by Judge Sinz of the Nacogdoches County Court at Law, ordering me to let their people on the property to conduct their business ancillary to their right of eminent domain. The fight was on. I immediately called the court and told the clerk that this order was ex parte and that I had no say in the matter, and that my side of the story needed to be told. She spoke to the judge who ordered an emergency hearing an hour from the call.

At the hearing, the judge informed me that TransCanada had the right of eminent domain under the law and that this matter was actually out of his hands but he would hear my argument. I informed the judge that a suitable, alternative route had been offered to them and that in the first place, the citizens of Texas passed a Constitutional amendment in 2009 during the gubernatorial election which prohibited the taking of property for “private use.” I reminded the judge that my property can only be taken for “public use” and not for private economic gain. I let him know that this was a private, foreign corporation transporting oil to another private, foreign corporation and that this entire process was illegal.

The judge ignored these facts. He did ask TransCanada why they could not utilize the alternative route that I had offered and they explained that my neighbor’s “lake” was in the way and that it would “be too expensive to bore under it.” I laughed and asked the judge if that were true, why is it that TransCanada can bore under seven major rivers in the state to run this pipeline and cross over hundreds, if not thousands of creeks and streams? I lost the fight but it angered me to action.

This is a picture of me in my front pasture where the pipeline is now being laid. I am actually standing in the exact location of the Keystone XL pipeline in this picture. This photo was taken in 2006. I converted the sunflower oil into biodiesel. It was part of my doctoral thesis on rural economic development using traditional and non-traditional, sustainable agricultural crops. As an analytical chemist, I saw the need for rural America to get away from petroleum/fossil fuels and I feel I proved that we (as a country) can be 100% independent from importation of crude oil. At any rate, the test plot (five acres) was successful.  

I then began intensive research on TransCanada, and what I found out both frightened me and gave me strength to channel the anger I had at that time. I refused their one offer they made me on the land and in my counter-offer, explained that the property was worth $125,000 and not the $8,063 they were offering. In that letter, I told them I did not recognize their right of eminent domain.

I did not hear anything until much later, when I received a lawsuit for condemnation in the same county court. At this point, I began searching for an attorney to represent me and contacted every non-profit environmental group I could find on the internet, to no avail. I finally contacted a local attorney who said she had experience in condemnation suits and would take the case, which she did. From the very beginning, I explained to her that I would not settle under any circumstances and that I was basing my argument on Constitutional grounds. We went to the condemnation hearing and they ruled against me and for TransCanada in the amount of $10,080 “fair and just compensation” for the right of way on my property. I refused that offer. Before we left the courthouse, she and the attorney for TransCanada spoke and I was offered $20,000. I again refused.

The offers continued for several months and while I was preparing evidence for my attorney, she was trying to settle the case. I refused any and all offers and explained that I wanted to prove that they were guilty of fraud. 

I bought this property in June 1988. It was an 14-acre tract with a pond, several creeks going through it and the creeks were fed by three separate springs. It was a combination of woods and pasture. From 1986-2005, I was employed as an analytical chemist and built the property as a sanctuary for wildlife and birds. We raised most of our food here and it was always my dream to leave this to my children and grandchildren to carry on my dreams of self-sufficiency and respect for nature and to be good stewards of the land entrusted to our care. A foreign private corporation, seeking personal economic gain has defrauded the American people and will be transporting a toxic material that has a history of causing cancer and killing wildlife in the Canadian province where it is being mined. It is also a material that threatens the adjacent water in that area and because of existing laws and an administration that balked on their promise to curtail climate change, my dream is dead. Roughly 30 years of blood, sweat and tears have been wiped away with the signature of a judge.

In March of 2012, I received an email from my attorney who informed me that the people holding the mortgage on my property, the Texas Veterans Land Board, were going to “foreclose on me if I refused to take a settlement offer” that she, the attorney for the Attorney General of Texas (representing the Land Board) and the TransCanada attorney were forging. I was pissed off. I had not been in foreclosure with the Veterans Land Board and they had no grounds to foreclose on the property. My attorney told me that this was the reality and it was up to me from this point forward.

For some strange reason, we did not hear anything back from them until November 2012 when I was told that the TransCanada attorney was requesting a mediation hearing with a third party mediation firm. I was given 48 hours to get to Austin, Texas, where we met in an office from 9 a.m. to almost 4 p.m. I never met with the attorney for the Texas Veterans Land Board (Megan Neal) nor did I ever see or speak to James Freeman, the TransCanada attorney. I did have a witness at the negotiation however, for my protection. It was my intention to walk out of there, fire my attorney and bring a suit against TransCanada for fraud. Around 3 p.m., after sitting in that room watching the clock go by, the mediation attorney and my lawyer came in.  They both informed me that TransCanada had one final offer and that if I did not take it, the Veterans Land Board would foreclose on my property immediately and the only money I would receive in compensation would be the original award by the Special Commissioners on the condemnation right of way. TransCanada agreed to pay off the balance with the Texas Veterans Land Board, pay the state attorney fees, pay my attorney fees and then give me compensation in the amount of $20,000, more or less for damage to the property. 

Under all common law, including Texas law, this is coercion and the agreement was signed under great duress. This cannot be argued. I signed. Within two weeks of this event, I turned around and filed a lawsuit against the Texas Railroad Commission, the permitting agency that gave TransCanada the permit to construct, and then filed a suit against TransCanada for injunctive relief and rescission of contract.

Part III. Calling for reinforcements behind enemy lines in the fight against Keystone XL

To recap where we left off … After losing the condemnation hearing, my attorney filed an appeal and we moved forward. Under Texas law, TransCanada has the right to proceed with construction; a law that I question and challenge. After the condemnation suit, they filed a writ of possession and had all rights to the property they had condemned. In the interim, the Texas Veterans Land Board (TVLB), represented by Megan Neal of the Texas Attorney General’s office began speaking with my attorney regarding a “settlement.” I received an email from my attorney in March 2012 telling me that she and Megan Neal were negotiating a settlement with TransCanada and that if I did not accept it, the TVLB would “foreclose” on my property. I became irate. 

I had not been in default, was not in arrears and had not violated any terms or conditions of the mortgage to warrant “foreclosure.” In spite of the threat, the “pending agreement for settlement” never came and I watched the survey crews from TransCanada begin their preliminary work on my property.

In this picture, you can see that I had a mixture of forest and pasture land. The creek is a year-round, natural spring-fed creek and you can see the damage done to it by TransCanada. It clearly shows the pipe laying machine and workers and the bridge they built over the creek bottom. To the right you can see standing water from recent rains and the muddy mess they have created. Wash-out from the piles of dirt have contaminated the creek and washed into my orchard.

This included a bulldozer that began moving dirt to lay out the pathway for the pipeline. I felt betrayed by the very state legislature that I thought was there to protect me, betrayed by the elected officials that I actually helped elect into office, and betrayed by the regulatory agencies that had a mandate to protect human health and safety as well as the ground and surface water in my state. The work continued daily and my thought was that I was being invaded by a foreign entity and no one would help me.

I questioned the business acumen of TransCanada’s decision to begin construction without having settled all of the legal issues they were facing. If I were a stockholder, it would be of great concern to me that the CEO of this firm was moving forward with a project that had multiple, pending lawsuits in several states and an overall negative impression of this company by the public. The company has a definitive history of lying to landowners and in many cases, “bullying” them into submission through questionable tactics.
I finally received an email and phone call from my attorney on November 7, 2012, advising me that a mediation hearing had been requested by TransCanada and that I must be in Austin, Texas, on November 9. I attended that meeting with Johnnie Johnson, my former business partner who was leasing land from me for her biorefinery to manufacture two renewable fuels, biodiesel and ethanol.

This is a shot of the line after they dug a 9-foot trench and laid the pipe. You can see the bridge over the creek to the left and how the pipeline curves to the right at the rear of the property. Our property is now a muddy mess and they cut into the creek bank, sloping the road down and across the creek. The Keystone XL pipeline crosses under a DeSoto natural gas pipeline and a Sunoco crude oil pipeline that was recently reported in the news as leaking. That leak is from the same line on my property, located about 40 miles away. Again, I offered TransCanada land on the western edge of my property (to the right in the picture) for free and this would have been a straight shot for them. It now curves in many locations and is costing them 10-20 times what it would have if they had just followed a straight line. The piles of dirt you see are 8-12 feet high and follow the entire length of my property.

We began the negotiation at 9 a.m. and ended around 3 p.m. that day. I had refused to take offers that were made but in the end, the mediation attorney and my attorney came into the room to explain that Megan Neal with the Attorney General’s office and James Freeman, the attorney for TransCanada were present and if I did not “accept their final offer,” the TVLB would foreclose on my property. I am 64 years of age and was scheduled to begin medical school in January 2013, I have a wife with severe medical problems who was recently diagnosed with dementia and a 16-year-old daughter in high school. Again, I became irate and questioned the legality of this threat of foreclosure. I immediately felt helpless and thought that all three of them were in collusion. I took the offer under coercion and extreme duress but told my former partner that when this was settled, I would sue them and sue the state of Texas. 

The minute this business was settled, title to the property was transferred and foreclosure was not in my future, I took legal action. This has been a long and frustrating effort but I did manage, for three days, to shut down their work on my property through a temporary restraining order (TRO). All of the facts, supported by sworn affidavit, were presented to Judge Sinz of the Nacogdoches County Court at Law—the same judge we have been in front of from the beginning of this battle. He agreed with me as to the need and reasons for a TRO and signed the order, shutting down their work until a hearing on the facts was held.

TransCanada requested an emergency hearing three days later and the judge acted as though he had never met me and dissolved the TRO and I knew then that the fight was far from over. I also knew at that point, the system was in harmony with TransCanada, for whatever reason. This may sound conspiratorial and paranoid but the evidence is ,and I am not one that believes in “coincidence,” especially when it repeats itself multiple times.
I had also filed a suit against the Railroad Commission of Texas, the permitting agency for TransCanada Keystone Pipeline XL, L.P. It was also my intention, after researching the rules and circumstances around the Army Corps of Engineers permitting for the southern leg of the pipeline, to file a suit against that agency as well.

Last spring, President Obama made a special trip on Air Force One to the “Pipeline Crossroads of the World” to call for fast-track approval of the southern (OK-TX) leg of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

President Obama denied this firm a permit to cross the border and build in Nebraska because of the threat or potential threat to the Ogallala Aquifer. What many people don’t know, however, is that he issued an executive order to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the southern leg of this very same pipeline.
This was done in spite of the classification of the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer that supplies all of East Texas. It is classified by the Department of Transportation as a Class 1C aquifer, ultra-sensitive area (USA). It has the same classification as the Ogallala, but the President is ignoring our concerns and even went to Cushing, Oklahoma, for a photo op, where he stood in front of the TransCanada pipe that is now being laid in Texas. This is an abomination and is political hypocrisy.

Regardless of whom you supported for President, you must be concerned about the future of our water supply. TransCanada has had 14 leaks in the past year and one of them was 10,000 gallons of bitumen or tar sands “oil.” If you will recall, the Enbridge spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan shut down 35 miles of river, contaminated the drinking water of a small town, spilled more than 1 million gallons of this toxic mess into that river and has cost hundreds of millions in clean up. To add insult to injury, it has not been completely remediated, given that bitumen is heavier than water and sinks to the bottom of the water. And yet, our government blindly supports this project. Why? Follow the money.

This pipeline is crossing more than 1,000 waterways, including six rivers right here in Texas, and it is not a matter of if but when this pipeline will leak. As I have stated before, God help us all when this happens. And yet, there is only silence on the part of our elected officials and regulators. Lawyers circle the wagons and throw legal technicalities to keep my suit, and others, from being heard by a jury. TransCanada fears us and fears that our efforts will prevail. When they lose in court, it will be their own fault. The truth cannot be hidden and in the end, we will win a victory for the environment, for the Constitutional patriots in this country and against the massive corruption surrounding this project.

The body of water you see in this picture is the exact spot where our garden once was. You are looking south towards the back pasture. This provides a good picture of the pipeline’s location and how it curves to the west at the back of my property and onto my neighbor’s property. It is difficult for me, especially now that it is spring, to look at this mess and know that I will never have my garden back the way it was. It is a violation of everything I think is important in life. How does one rebuild at 64 years of age, and even if it were to happen, where do you move to that does not have a pipeline or the potential of having one located there? We have nowhere to run.

I am amazed by the lack of understanding about this project by the general public and even more amazed that people in other parts of the country are so focused on the “northern segment” while the pipeline is actually being laid right here in Texas and will begin transporting diluted bitumen, tar sands crude oil, to Gulf Coast refineries by the end of the year. So many seem oblivious to this fact.

My former business partner and my sons just formed a non-profit corporation called Landowners Against TransCanada Pipeline to assist landowners in the U.S. The website and purpose of the corporation will be published and advertised in the next week but the primary purpose is to raise money to fight TransCanada legally. TransCanada has an immense budget and financial resources. Landowners like myself do not have the financial resources and are relying on the help and kindness of people who are opposed to this project for reasons of sovereignty, arguing against eminent domain, arguing that this project will be a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and that the material to be transported is highly corrosive and toxic. 

This is a real war. Those of us behind enemy lines are anxious for reinforcements to arrive.

Part IV. America becomes sacrifice zone for export pipeline

Dogs are territorial and bark at the wind blowing, leaves moving, sounds miles away, strange vehicles and people coming onto your property. I don’t care where you live in the world. That is their nature. My dogs are scared to death of these giant machines and bark every time the workers crank up. It is a constant “parade” of TransCanada’s vehicles up and down the line. The construction of Keystone XL is only 120 feet from my house and aside from the rumbling and noise from the engines, the dogs barking for almost 10 hours per day is irritating, to say the least.

TransCanada’s pipe on the ground prior to their excavation. It is looking south, across the creek and into what once was the back pasture.

TransCanada crews welding the pipe for the crews to begin laying.

Looking north on the property towards the county road. This site is the location of the sunflowers grown for biodiesel.
Recently, two of my grandchildren, who are used to playing anywhere in the front they want, wandered into the work area, which caused my heart to drop. I’m telling you, these people don’t care about anyone or anything now, but by God, they will.

I came to East Texas nearly 30 years ago after spending all of my teen years and most of my adult life along the Houston Ship Channel, working in the oil refineries and chemical plants. I see beauty everywhere but I really like East Texas in the springtime. I bought this property to leave to my children and grandchildren—a legacy, if you will. With my sons, and now my daughter, I have done my best to instill in them the responsibility of stewardship and how to properly take care of Earth and its creatures. I went outside to check the fruit trees in my orchard last week and, as I have for 30 years, marveled at the beauty of the blossoms on the pear, cherry, apple and peach trees. I also had tears in my eyes, because only a few feet away is the pipeline that is going to carry some of the most toxic material found on Earth.

Fruit trees in bloom a few feet from TransCanada’s construction.

This is a natural spring on my property they covered up.

I take great pride, as a biologist and self-proclaimed naturalist, in the native plants I have protected and nurtured for more than 20 years. My wild irises, which are phenomenal, have been buried by TransCanada’s excavator and although they will live, it will be another year before they bloom again. It is all so sad and shameful that I am at a loss for words, to be quite honest. It’s profits over everything else, especially Constitutional rights.

This pipeline is being built despite massive protests and lawsuits by honest, hardworking landowners and concerned U.S. citizens. In retrospect, I should have ignored my lawyer and the lawyer for the Texas Veterans Land Board, stood my ground and never settled. I was in a situation where my back was up against the wall, with a wife who has Alzheimer’s and a teen-aged daughter, and the attorneys involved led me to believe I had no choice but to settle. Hindsight is always 20/20, but looking forward, the facts in my lawsuits are irrefutable.

I claim, in my suit against TransCanada, that they have defrauded the American public, misled Texas landowners and have no right to eminent domain based on the material they are transporting. What I find extremely sad and unbelievable is that once members of the public became aware of this company’s deceit and contacted the appropriate legislators and regulatory authorities, no corrective action was performed. The Texas legislature did not call for an investigation into this matter and the Texas Railroad Commission (the pipeline operator permitting agency) turned a deaf ear to this problem. I use the word “problem” because it is a “problem,” not an “issue.” Where are all the people who took sacred oaths to protect the public?

TransCanada, in my hearings, repeatedly referred to “bitumen” (tar sands oil) as heavy crude oil that has been “diluted.” This is in the court transcript. I presented overwhelming evidence, using both federal and Texas statutory definitions, that dispel that claim, including irrefutable evidence from the U.S. Geological Survey and even the Canadian government itself. Remarkably, I have TransCanada’s own website admission. Public relations pamphlets sent to residents along the pipeline path also admit to it being “bitumen.” But the judge in my case was not interested in hearing the truth.

If the permit issued to TransCanada by the Texas Railroad Commission states that the “material to be transported” is crude oil, but it doesn’t meet the federal or state legal definitions for crude oil, then what is it exactly? In the Final Environmental Impact Statement to the U.S. Department of State, it says the material is: diluted bitumen, synthetic crude, synthetic bitumen, raw bitumen and diluted synthetic bitumen. Beware a “bait and switch” to further confuse and mislead the public in this matter. I am not buying it and neither should you. 

TransCanada’s lawyers can distort the facts all they want, but we see through their lies and smoke and mirrors. What I want to know is why President Obama, my elected officials, our regulatory agencies and the courts have all sided with this foreign energy company over the American people?  

I have filed suit in Nacogdoches County Court At Law, which was dismissed by the judge for “lack of jurisdiction,” but is now on appeal in the Texas 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler, Texas. I have also filed suit against the Texas Railroad Commission, which was also dismissed by the judge for “improper service,” in spite of the fact that I followed the law to the letter. I am re-serving that suit on the elected officials in that agency and they will answer to the people before this is over.

I am also preparing a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Federal Court, Eastern District of Texas in Lufkin, where I feel good about my chances. Again, the facts are irrefutable and I think federal judges are isolated from the lobbying efforts, bully tactics and possibly even bribery being employed by TransCanada. As I wrap up my story, I want to leave you with a few final points to consider.

We must decide now, as a people, if private property rights and sovereignty of U.S. citizens are to be sacrificed for the bottom line economic interests of foreign private corporations that want to send their toxic materials to Gulf Coast refineries for export. The export fact is indisputable and even the President of the U.S. has admitted this in public statements. My land and my life’s dreams have been destroyed, and for what? To line the pockets of a private company and provide fuel to China and India? This is not justice and our elected officials in the state of Texas have turned a deaf ear to our cries.

What is one to think other than that they have been paid off, are inherently ignorant or just don’t care and have their eyes on higher office? My focus will be shifting to the Texas legislature next, as this madness has to stop. There was a time in Texas, and in other states, when eminent domain and the “taking of property” was done for “public use or public need and necessity.” In the global economy, it seems those days are over.

I also want to clear up the myth that the Keystone XL will help America secure our “energy independence” so we can stop “importing foreign oil” from Saudi Arabia. This is pure fantasy. First of all, Keystone XL is being built as an export pipeline, not to make America more energy independent. Second, one of the Gulf Coast refineries that is slated to process TransCanada’s tar sands bitumen is Saudi Arabian. Motiva is a joint venture between Saudi Arabian Refining and Royal Dutch Shell. Do you see the irony here? Follow the corporate trail with others, like ExxonMobil and Chevron. It will boggle your mind where and why these companies get their oil. Keystone XL isn’t about reducing our dependence on foreign oil, it’s about using America as a sacrifice zone to get Canadian oil to foreign markets.

In this global context, there is no “public interest,” there is only private corporate gain. In spite of lawsuits and overwhelming evidence to support this fact, politicians and bureaucrats, from the President on down, ignore the law and side with these corporate monsters.

I think what pisses me off more than anything is that we have a Congress that will spend trillions of dollars bailing out Wall Street, but turns a deaf ear to people like us who are fighting for basic property rights and for the future safety and health of our children and grandchildren.

I have hit many brick walls during this journey, and I am sick of hearing lawyers tell me it “can’t be done.” There is a Chinese Proverb, which I hung on my laboratory wall for inspiration when I was doing R&D on renewable fuels:

The legal war is on and I am enlisting peaceful warriors to join me in this fight. My friends and family have started a website and formed a non-profit corporation to help all landowners in the U.S. legally fight this powerful oil and gas company.
I especially want to thank Stefanie Spear of EcoWatch, Tom Weis of Climate Crisis Solutions, Chris Wynnyk Wilson from Austin, Julie Dermansky from New Orleans and the wonderful young men and women of the Tar Sands Blockade for their support and for maintaining faith in my legal battles against this tyranny. Losing is not an option.
Tom Weis served as contributing editor in this series. 


My name is Michael Bishop and I am a landowner in Douglass, TX, in Nacogdoches County. I have been fighting TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline for almost five years now and, except for a handful of good Americans, was told there was no interest in eminent domain cases or that I “couldn’t win a case against TransCanada.” For the record, I contacted environmental group after environmental group since the beginning of this fight and I begged for legal assistance from, literally, dozens of attorneys specializing in Constitutional law, eminent domain and civil law, to no avail. In my own state of Texas, I contacted a national nonprofit group that was not only negative about me fighting this company, but was actually rude and unwilling to even discuss the argument I was trying to make in support of litigation against TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline, LLC. I also called a well-known environmental group in Austin that talked a good game, but, in the end, did not deliver and ended up aligning themselves with individuals who brought shame to that group through unscrupulous actions and comments against suffering landowners.

Michael Bishop, a landowner in Douglass, TX.

I called local county commissioners and my county judge who refused to put me on the agenda to bring them a five minute presentation as to why my county should oppose this pipeline and to show them that a legislative tool or existing law gave them the authority to stop construction. I was not allowed to make such a presentation. This is sad, given that this same commissioner’s court gave TransCanada representatives over four hours of “updates” and “information” sessions and actually entered into agreements with this firm. A private citizen, taxpayer and landowner was denied the right to present information to the leaders of the county while representatives of a foreign, privately owned corporation were  given the “key to the county.” I contacted multiple state agencies that are mandated by law to protect and represent the public interest in environmental matters only to be told they were unable to assist me and that they had no “legal authority,” although this was, and is, clearly not the case.

What I find further disturbing during my research in the cases I have filed against TransCanada, the Texas Railroad Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the level of corruption I have uncovered and witnessed in our judiciary and legislative representatives. Sadly, this allegation goes all the way to the White House. During my fight against this illegal foreign land grab, I have seen many good people in Texas and other states destroyed by the actions of TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline, and their dreams (along with mine) for the future of their children and grandchildren shattered by greed, lies, propaganda  and bullying tactics of a private, foreign corporation that has the complete and overwhelming support of these corrupt local leaders, politicians and judges. It is time for change.

I am sick of the rhetoric of politicians who speak out of both sides of their mouths: they support stopping climate change while approving this pipeline; they support “property rights” while refusing to support reform of eminent domain laws that violate the Constitutional rights of citizens. I am tired of individuals who “praise and support” our efforts to stop the pipeline but have a selfish agenda that is counter-productive to the on-going fight. Daddy used to tell me that people are basically driven by four things: power, sex, money or all of the above. I have witnessed, firsthand, in my fight against TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline, individuals and groups that are not team players, do not support or have not supported those landowners in need and continue to get their names in the news as “key players” in this fight, when in fact, they do not support, have not supported and have not contributed one original idea, one cent or one original strategy to this serious war we are engaged in. In fact, some of them are actually guilty of plagiarism and giving misleading and misinformed statements to the media. It is time to put away self-serving agendas and concentrate on the few legitimate fights that are currently going on out here in the real world. With the exception of dedicated environmental news outlets and real journalists, the mainstream media has fallen prey to the propaganda machine of TransCanada and the U.S. government  information “puppets.” They are not reporting the true stories of landowners who have stood firm and are fighting this illegal pipeline and in spite of multiple lawsuits, Heartland America is not aware of our plight. The media is controlled and has no interest in truth and this is also a sad reality of our current society.

For months I have thought about what to write and the answer is clear: unity. We are all aware of the universal fact that the government, concerned about “eco-terrorists,” have embedded agents in the various groups opposed to the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline and it is also no secret that there are “double agents” paid by TransCanada to infiltrate these various organizations opposed to the pipeline and provide them with information regarding anti-pipeline activities. I can name at least four major groups that are receiving massive amounts of money to protest and fight TransCanada from private investors or “funders” as well as several nonprofit foundations. What has this funding achieved? Nothing. Julia Trigg Crawford, to my understanding, has waged her legal battle, for the most part, with her own funding. The Texas Rice Farmers group, my own legal battles and other landowners have not been able to raise money to assist in these legal battles, although there are groups out there receiving substantial sums of money. The race for “headlines,” the urgency to make a name for themselves and the struggle for power and recognition have blinded these individuals and groups to the real legal battles that are currently on-going in Texas. This is sad and it must end.

As a U.S. Marine, I learned and learned well the absolute requirement for working as a team and performing as a cohesive unit. It is time for individuals and groups that have separate political agendas and financial motives to reassess their actions, review the work that myself and other landowners have accomplished thus far and join in to help us. Without this support and absolute unity, TransCanada will prevail and the “twin” pipeline that has already been planned and proposed will follow this Southern segment of the KXL. This will become a reality in another year or two and we will then be in double jeopardy.

I urge everyone to consider this letter and to join the few of us that are out here fighting for the future of our children and grandchildren and not vying for political or financial advancement. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. I hope that this call to unity will give those who are guilty pause for consideration and that they will join us and stop working against us in this honorable and real fight against TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline.

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