As the Texas Tribune reported, we’ve started the ball rolling AGAIN asking for interim studies and public hearings on common carrier pipelines and eminent domain abuse in our state. We knew public input (pulling wisdom from the minds of men and women) would be an important element in the search for solutions to protecting private property and water while providing fertile ground for oil and gas development. There was ONE and only ONE public hearing outside of Austin in 2012. We Texans (with assistance from Terri Hall at TURF and Rita Beving at Public Citizen Texas) organized that hearing, held just before Thanksgiving in DeWitt County, with Sen. Hegar, Rep. Morrison and 100+ landowners in attendance. Still, there was so much controversy surrounding these issues that all proposals for legislative remedy fell short in 2013. While public hearings won’t solve the problem, they are a fundamental and initial step needed in search of those solutions. On Monday (June 17) I walked the halls of the Capitol along with landowner, Julia Trigg Crawford, and former Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Jim Hightower, calling on legislators in their offices and urging them to hold hearings and insure that this issue is gets the attention it deserves. We left the following letter at each office we visited. (Please feel free to copy to your own legislator via letter, fax or e-mail.)
June 17, 2013
Dear Speaker, Lt. Governor and Legislators:
We visited your office today, realizing you were busy with the current Special Session. However, we ask for your help to secure public hearings for Texans immediately following this Special Session – in communities, starting with East Texas — who have suffered from the abuse of eminent domain in our great state. One of these impacted landowners is a signatory of this letter, Julia Trigg Crawford, a farmer from Lamar County.
It is our understanding that when the Legislature is not in session, in order to secure these hearings, Lt. Governor Dewhurst and/or House Speaker Straus must call for an Interim Study. Governor Perry, last week, put rumors to rest about adding to the Call. However, rumors abound that there could be an additional Special Session beginning just after July 4th. Therefore, we are asking for your commitment now to an Interim Study, for hearings to begin immediately following this session and for you to urge the Governor to refrain from adding this item to a Special Session Call.
Landowners face significant obstacles in part because Texas eminent domain laws do not provide due process for individuals until after their land is seized. In addition, a number of problems were heard in committee during the regular session. Unfortunately, given the hectic pace of a legislative session, these issues were not fully developed and appropriate legislative remedy remains allusive. We believe public hearings would help bring about the information, awareness and public support needed to secure passage of sound legislation in the next session.
We urge that hearings for an Interim Study begin immediately in East Texas along the route of the TransCanada/Keystone XL Pipeline. This pipeline is due for completion sometime early next year. In addition to concerns about the use of eminent domain, the House Land & Resource Management, Business & Industry, and Energy Resources committees have all heard additional concerns that Landowners, together with Towns, Cities and Counties along the route, may be inadequately prepared for emergency measures needed if there is a pipeline breach. The fact that the pipeline is carrying diluted bitumen under high pressure, which carries particular dangers to health, safety and our water supply, has somehow been lost in the eminent domain shuffle.
Moreover, given the high profile of Texas water availability, we believe that the protection of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which serves 10-12 million people, and which is traversed by this pipeline, deserves a special look by the Legislature. Last, the recent anomalies in new pipeline being laid by TransCanada were in the press last week. This points to the immediate need for hearings and full public disclosure. These landowners and nearby residents deserve at least this much.
Of course, east Texas is not the only area of our state where the tremendous increase in oil and gas production activity is taking place. Counties throughout the Eagle Ford Shale and west Texas are also reporting eminent domain abuse and logging concerns about protection of fresh water. Texas is fortunate to enjoy such vast natural resources and a vibrant energy sector. Texans want and need to have a dialog about these important issues. Holding hearings in the affected communities will provide the best opportunity to hear from stakeholders and find solutions that will protect individual and business interests alike.
Debra Medina, We Texans
Julia Trigg Crawford, Landowner, Lamar County
We Texans Archives
Special Thanks to Debra Medina and staff for outstanding research on sovereignty and property rights and property taxes. Hat Tip to all! Formerly WeTexans.com this content is archived and searchable here on Constitutional Liberty Coalition for reference only.