Julia Trigg Crawford addresses pipeline foes in
Paris, Texas, Feb. 17 (McKldee via YouTube)
As previously noted in Keystone XL pipeline attracts fresh foes, opposition has been growing in Texas against the building of a conduit for oil from Alberta's tar-sand deposits to Gulf Coast refineries at Port Arthur. The project has run into serious opposition across Canada and the United States from an ad hoc coalition whose members include indigenous tribes, Nebraska corn farmers and environmental advocacy groups.
Now, while congressional Republicans seek ways to get around President Barack Obama's decision to reject the 1661-mile pipeline along its current route, and builder TransCanada keeps condemning property along that same route, an assortment of East Texas landowners are fighting to keep the 376 miles of pipeline slated to run through 18 counties of their state from ever being built.
A focus for the opposition now is Julia Trigg Crawford, a 53-year-old farm manager and former basketball star at Texas A&M University. She began her fight against TransCanada in 2008. Last summer, she was among 1000 pipeline protesters arrested during demonstrations at the White House.
Crawford has sued to keep the company from running its pipeline across 30 acres of hay meadow on her 600-acre farm. The full trial begins April 30.
But, on Friday, Crawford and other family members, who have owned the farm since 1948, lost their effort to block further work by TransCanada until after the outcome of the trial. A judge lifted a temporary restraining order that had been granted earlier this month on the grounds that the pipeline might disturb archeological artifacts of the area's Caddo Indians, most of whom were forced off their land and evacuated to what is now Oklahoma in the 19th Century.
At issue in the lawsuit is whether the company can use "eminent domain" to condemn her land and that of others because pipelines are "common carriers." A Texas Supreme Court decisionlast year suggested that such condemnations may be unconstitutional. Some say this could be a landmark case. One opponent of the pipeline says she has found 89 legal actions taken by TransCanada against Texas landowners to enforce eminent domain.
While the constitutionality of taking private property for use by a private company is on some minds, Crawford's family has more mundane concerns. Among the specifics in the lawsuit is the potential for the pipeline to taint Bois d'Arc Creek, which flows through the property. In drought-ridden Texas, contaminated water is no small matter:
In Reklaw, population 266, Mayor Harlan Crawford [no relation to Julia] says fighting the pipeline has become his principal mission in a job otherwise filled with the predictable litany of small-town complaints, such as stray dogs and water problems. [...]
After learning that the pipeline would run near the town, residents joined forces with Gallatin, another small farming community, to form the equivalent of a regional compact that would give them more power to challenge the pipeline. One big concern for the alliance is the potential contamination of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which lies underneath 60 counties.
"This is some nasty stuff, and we look to get it stopped," Crawford said.
TransCanada makes grandiose claims. A Waco-based consultant for the company said that the pipeline would eventually provide 50,000 direct and indirect jobs in Texas, something opponents say is ludicrously inflated. But such assertions make for a big come-on.
Even in the oily politics of Texas, however, grabbing land to benefit an oil company, particularly a foreign oil company, gets people's back up. Add in the possibility of water pollution and the disaster of strip-mining tar-sand deposits and you create an unusual alliance. Libertarians and tea partiers, including a candidate who ran against Perry in the state primary, have joined the fight against the pipeline, making common cause with people like Crawford and groups like Friends of the Earth, Corporate Ethics International and the Center for International Environmental Law.
Julia Crawford doesn't see herself as being out of the ordinary. "I'm just someone who decided to stand up and push back. We are a very proud Texas family," she says. "Even though I know it is just the Crawford family farm against TransCanada, it is worth taking a stand."
That's an attitude that seems to be spreading, not just when it comes to the pipeline, but also against a predatory Wall Street, a Congress ever more beholden to big money, an entire system seemingly dedicated to giving plutocrats even more clout than they already have. A battle here, there and everywhere. Win some, lose some, but never yielding without a fight. Model behavior for the 99 percent.
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You can sign a petition in support of Julia Trigg Crawford here.