Texas Landowner to Tar Sands Oil Company: 'The Fight Is On'

Opponents of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline rally alongside Texas landowner Michael Bishop on Thursday. (Photo: Tarsandsblockade.org)

Texas Landowner to Tar Sands Oil Company: 'The Fight Is On'

Judge Rules Keystone XL Construction Can Proceed—For Now

Texas landowner Michael Bishop vowed Thursday that "the fight is on," even after a judge rescinded a restraining order that temporarily halted construction of part of the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline across his property.

Bishop, 64, a retired paramedic and chemist, told the Associated Press that TransCanada "lied to the American people" in saying that the pipeline would carry crude oil, when tar sands crude is substantially different. He alleges that TransCanada coerced him into signing the easement across his farm, about 100 miles from Houston.

Texas County Court at Law Judge Jack Sinz issued the temporary restraining order on Dec. 11 after finding sufficient cause until evidence was presented to a jury. But Sinz rescinded that order on Thursday after a hearing at which TransCanada's attorney's argued that Bishop, whose farm is in the pipeline's path, had understood the easement agreements he signed with the company three weeks ago.

"It is also a fact that the firm used coercion and intimidating tactics to obtain the property in question and that acting on the validity of their claim, I settled under duress," Bloomberg reports Bishop as saying in an affidavit.

But despite Bishop's determination to proceed, pipeline opponents called the ruling "a strike against our rights to clean water and a safe, healthy future."

The proposed 2,151-mile pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. TransCanada has still not secured permission from the federal government to build the cross-border section of the pipeline, but was approved for a southern section, the last part of which extends into Texas.

According to Bloomberg, Sinz told Bishop:

"I feel I have no choice but to dissolve the temporary restraining order. You've raised some interesting questions but you've taken their money and given them an easement. And you knew all this when you did it. The case will proceed and I'll continue to consider it."

Bishop first sued the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees pipeline construction in the state, alleging it failed to properly investigate the pipeline to protect public health and safety. A hearing on that case is scheduled for next week, according to Bloomberg.

Of Thursday's decision, Bishop told The Times, "I'm disappointed, but by the same token a lot of ground was gained today. This case is far from over."

Other landowners have tried unsuccessfully to fight the pipeline, and on Thursday opponents protested outside the courthouse in Nacogdoches.

"Today's court ruling is a strike against our rights to clean water and a safe, healthy future but we remain undeterred," said Vicki Baggett, a member of Nacogdoches County S.T.O.P. (Stop Tar sands Oil Permanently). "Tar sands isn't your grandfather's oil. It's toxic and dangerous. I refuse to allow my community to become a sacrifice zone for the dirtiest fuel on Earth."

Ron Seifert, a spokesperson for Tar Sands Blockade, said:

From the streets to the courts, we will not rest until Keystone XL is stopped for good. Michael Bishop's case is a textbook example of TransCanada bullying and bankrupting any landowner or community member brave enough to say 'no' to this monstrous project. We'll continue to stand with landowners like Mr. Bishop in this David versus Goliath fight to defend our homes and climate from toxic tar sands.

Sinz has scheduled another hearing for Wednesday, at which he will hear evidence about the substances involved and what substances Bishop's settlement and the company's permits allow them to transport.

"Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do, then you come back, regroup and formulate a plan of attack to right the wrong," Bishop told Bloomberg. "I lost the battle today, but I didn't lose the war. The fight is on."

Tar Sands Blockade released this video:

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