Texas Lawmakers Ponder Oversight of Eminent Domain
AUSTIN - Lamar County landowner Julia Crawford was among those to testify before lawmakers concerning companies that use eminent domain to install pipelines on private property.
The House Committee for Land and Resource Management Monday heard criticism from Crawford and others about a company’s self-asserted right to land. Pipeline companies contend their service is a "public good."
The Texas Tribune reports that under the current law, if a pipeline is classified as a common carrier the operator can use eminent domain to build on private property. The common carrier designation is not decided by the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC), who the permit for a new pipeline is filed through, but by the pipeline operator themselves.
Lawsuits by Texas landowners, including Crawford’s battle against TransCanada, are challenging those designations. She’s trying to protect Native American artifacts and water on her farm.
“It appears the burden now falls on citizens” Crawford said. “We feel we are the victims of an energy industry allowed to go a bit rogue.”
The state committee discussed whether operators should be able to decide whether they are common carriers with the right to use eminent domain or whether the state should have more oversight in the process.
According to the Tribune, lawyers for the Texas Pipeline Association say if the TRC were to evaluate the designation of which operators are common carriers it would centralize the process. But officials against that notion claim the burden of proof to be considered a common carrier would be too high for operators and changing the approval process could impede the development of pipelines in Texas.