A Modern Day Texas Tale: A Farmer VS. An Oil Company
Julia Crawford is a third generation farmer who works and lives on the same land her grandfather bought in 1948 in Sumner, Texas. There has always been wheat, corn and soy growing there, but there has also always been interest from oil companies building pipelines. Until now, the Crawfords have always managed to persuade them to find a way around their land. But TransCanada’s revised Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Alberta’s Tar Sands to the Gulf of Mexico, plans to go right through this farmer’s land.
At first, the TransCanada men were polite, recalls Ms. Crawford. But on August 26th, 2011, their “final offer” came in the mail. It offered Ms. Crawford 21, 626 dollars for the right to build the pipeline through her land. Up until then, she had always refused because “when you allow a pipeline to cross your land, you give up certain rights to it. You can’t use your land the way you want anymore.” However, if Ms. Crawford rejected their offer, TransCanada still had a legal right to use her land. They made that clear in their last letter:”if Keystone is unable to successfully negotiate the voluntary acquisition of the necessary easements, it will have to resort to the exercise of its statutory right of eminent domain.”
Meaning that in the state of Texas, if an agreement is not reached between landowners and oil companies, the latter have the right to force the former to let the pipeline through. That is their right of eminent domain.
The Crawford family signed the deal for 21 000 dollars, but TransCanada had given the short deadline of three days and did not get back to them until a month and a half later in October.
Julia Crawford and her family are now entangled in a legal battle with TransCanada as the last standing resistant land owners in their county. The company claims to have 99% of the rights of way secured in Texas. The family is worried about a leak, which their insurance will not cover. They have started a legal defense fund called Stand With Julia, which has now raised over 6 000 dollars, most of it in 50$ or less donations. This is of some encouragement to Ms. Crawford, who sees it this way:” We may lose the case. Hell, we’ll probably lose. But I played basketball for A&M. I was raised to compete. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to get your teeth kicked in. You go out there and fight.”
Image courtesy of Creative Commons.
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