, Port Arthur, Texas

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September 13, 2012

Rice farmers argue against Keystone Pipeline

— Representatives for a group of Texas rice farmers met before a Jefferson County judge Wednesday to argue against TransCanada’s right to construct a pipeline on their lands.

TransCanada is suing the group for permission to use its lands to build the southern segment of the Keystone pipeline, which would carry oil from Alberta to the Texas coast. A recent Texas Supreme Court ruling says a company must prove its pipeline is for the common good before it receives a writ of possession for private property.

Attorney’s representing both sides pleaded their case to Judge Tom Rugg, who decided to allow a nine-day period for any additional briefing. Rugg said he will make a final decision Monday, Sept. 24.

Tom Zabel, the attorney representing TransCanada, said the farmers have the right to contest the company’s claims, but they cannot stop it from getting land possession. He said TransCanada wants to do the proceedings “in an orderly fashion” and give the farmers a chance to have their say.

“We have the right to be out there right now,” he said. “The only reason we aren’t is because we don’t want to mobilize and have someone come out there and stop us. It costs a lot of money to demobilize.”

Terry Wood, one of the attorneys for the land owners, said TransCanada’s land possession is premature.

Wood asked the judge to wait until the resolution of another case in October before making his decision in order to protect the rights of the land owners. That case, another litigation involving the Keystone pipeline, will determine if the court has jurisdiction to rule on TransCanada’s right to seize property.

“What you’re hearing is expedience for the pipeline company versus constitutional rights of land owners,” he said. “That’s really what you’re talking about here.”

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