Activists have handcuffed themselves to machinery. A group has moved into a grove of trees on a TransCanada easement. A 78-year-old great-grandmother, Eleanor Fairchild, whose late husband worked in the oil industry, spent a night in jail after trespassing â¿¿ along with actress Daryl Hannah of "Splash" fame â¿¿ on land condemned on her 425-acre farm. On Monday, eight others were arrested for their protest activities.
TransCanada's pipeline, some landowners say, is more worrisome than those built by other companies because of the tar sands oil the company wants to transport. They point to an 800,000-gallon spill of mostly tar sands oil in Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010. It took Enbridge, the company that owns that pipeline, 17 hours to detect the rupture, and the cleanup is still incomplete.
With a pipeline, landowners give up control of the land for a one-time check, risking a spill that could contaminate their land or water for years. It's a risk many are willing to take in exchange for cash â¿¿ to a point.
Some say the risk of a spill now is too high to cooperate. Others want guarantees TransCanada will take full responsibility for a spill.Many just want respect. Most pipeline projects in Texas have been completed with an average of 4 percent to 10 percent of condemned land. TransCanada, however, has condemned more than 100 of the 800 or so tracts â¿¿ or about 12.5 percent â¿¿ of the land it needed to complete a 485-mile portion of the pipeline that runs through Texas. TransCanada has "common carrier" status in Texas, which allows companies building projects benefiting the public to condemn private property. The Texas Supreme Court recently ruled if a landowner challenges a condemnation, the company must prove its project is for the public good. Crawford, whose family has denied other pipelines access to their land, argues that since TransCanada's pipeline will have only one access point â¿¿ or a place where oil can get into the pipe â¿¿ at a hub in Cushing, Okla., it does not qualify for the status, which requires the pipeline be accessible in Texas.