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TheStreet Open House

Texas Landowners Take A Rare Stand Against Big Oil

To fight back, insulted Texas landowners have appealed court decisions condemning their land after they refused to grant TransCanada an easement allowing construction of the pipeline. Still others are allowing activists onto their land to stage protests, leading to several arrests. Together, the actions threaten to further delay a project that has already encountered many obstacles.

"We've fought wars for it. We stood our ground at the Alamo for it. There's a lot of reasons that Texans are very proud of their land and proud when you own land that you are the master of that land and you control that land," said Julia Trigg Crawford, who is fighting the condemnation of a parcel of her family's 650-acre Red'Arc Farm in Sumner, about 115 miles northeast of Dallas.

Oil and agriculture have lived in peace in part because a one-time payment from a pipeline company or monthly royalties from a production rig can help finance a ranch or farm that struggle today to turn a profit from agriculture. The oil giants also respected landowners' fierce Texas independence, even sometimes drilling in a different yard or rerouting a pipeline to ensure easy access to the minerals below.

TransCanada is different. For one, it has more often sought and received court permission to condemn land when property owners didn't agree to an easement.

"This is a foreign company," Crawford said. "Most people believe that as this product gets to the Houston area and is refined, it's probably then going to be shipped outside the United States. So if this product is not going to wind up as gasoline or diesel fuel in your vehicles or mine then what kind of energy independence is that creating for us?"

While using foreign steel for a U.S. pipeline and condemning land is not all that unusual, Keystone XL has been so controversial nationally â¿¿ sparking protests in Washington, Nebraska and other states, and even getting a mention in the presidential debate on Tuesday â¿¿ that it may have given Texans the push they needed to fight.

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