Wednesday, April 16, 2014
   
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Lawmakers need hearings in path of Keystone


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Lawmakers need to hear directly from landowners impacted by Keystone XL Pipeline
Halt eminent domain abuse from other entities like TxDOT set to lease out public ROW to private developers

PRESS STATEMENT BY TURF:

1) Call for hearings in East Texas
2) Call to update 'Landowner Bill of Rights'
3) Call to stop eminent domain abuse by other entities, like TxDOT's recent RFI to lease public ROW

While we're grateful the Texas Legislature is starting to take notice of the eminent domain abuse taking place by TransCanada on the Keystone XL Pipeline by holding this hearing today, this isn't much of a public hearing if the House Land and Resource Committee doesn't hear directly from the public.

The property owners who are, as we speak, having their land forcibly taken through eminent domain by a foreign pipeline company for what amounts to a 'private' rather than a 'public' use, deserve to be heard.

We call on the Legislature and this Committee to hold hearings in the effected areas in East Texas. We learned from the Trans Texas Corridor hearings, that tens of thousands of Texans went on the record objecting to their land being taken and handed over to a private, foreign toll operator.

The parallels here cannot be ignored. The landowners of East Texas deserve to have their voices heard -- and on the record.

Call to update "Landowner Bill of Rights'
Another thing the Legislature can do is to pass a bill next session to update the 'Landowner Bill of Rights' to inform property owners that due to the Texas Supreme Court Denbury Green decision, they can challenge a pipeline company's 'common carrier' status and hence its claim to eminent domain.

TTC eminent domain abuse continues
And the eminent domain abuse doesn't stop with pipeline companies. TxDOT just released a Request for Information, June 22, seeking assistance from developers to build ancillary facilities inside the SH 130 tollway in Travis County, including a gas station, garage, store, hotel, restaurant, railroad tracks, utilities, and telecommunications facilities and equipment.

In fact, the deadline for interested developers is this Wednesday, July 25. Though the Legislature thought it took care of this by removing the Trans Texas Corridor from statute last year, Section 228.053 lives on and grants TxDOT the same ability to lease out the public's right-of-way for a private, commercial use.

The naturally occurring economic development alongside our interstate freeways will disappear if the state gets away with picking the winners and losers and monopolizes all the economic development by containing it within public rights-of-way on tollways rather than among private landowners. This also has impacts to local governments who will lose their potential commercial tax base alongside our highways.

Particularly when eminent domain is involved, landowners suffer irreparable harm since once their land is taken, it's permanent. There is no way to restore what's been lost.

So the issue of eminent domain for private gain is alive and well in Texas, despite multiple bills and even a Constitutional Amendment, to supposedly 'protect' Texas landowners.

Texans expect their elected representatives to get the job done and put an end to eminent domain abuse in Texas, once and for all.

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