Monday, November 18, 2013

Army Corps of Engineers exercised eminent domain authority over Texan's land on behalf of foreign oil company — without public hearings, risk assessments or following Corps guidelines

Bloomberg's Brad Weiners reports on Texas landowner Michael Bishop's fight against Keystone XL pipeline owner TransCanada and its use of a U.S. government agency to run roughshod over  property he owns, in order to lay pipe across his 20 acres, through which several creeks run.
...Over the following year, Bishop looked into the process by which the Army Corps had claimed control of his land and determined that the agency had not completed the necessary public hearings or risk assessments before issuing permits to TransCanada. “They hadn’t followed the law,” he says. “They hadn’t even followed their own regulatory guidelines.” Instead, he says, the Army Corps had helped a foreign company help itself to the private property of a law-abiding U.S. taxpayer. Insult to injury, “Obama flew to Cushing for a photo op, to claim credit for fast-tracking the project,” he recalls. Incensed, Bishop eventually sued the government for what he alleges remain “illegal” permits. To save on legal fees, Bishop represented himself. “It’s really very simple,” he says of his case. “They didn’t have the right to issue the permits.”
     Because the pipe has already been laid, Bishop heard from people who say he’s doing too little, too late. He finds that take ridiculous. “[The pipe's] in there illegally! That’s like arguing that if a burglar is already in your house, well, now they have a right to be there.” Bishop wants the court to suspend the use of the pipeline until a risk assessment can be completed; he wants the Army Corps to restore his property to its pre-construction state; and he wants to get reimbursed for the cost of filing his suit.
     For a few hours at least, Bishop appeared to be winning. On Nov. 6, U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Giblin, in Lufkin, Tex., granted an Entry of Default in his case—essentially because no one from the Army Corps or U.S. Attorney General’s office bothered to contest Bishop’s allegations. After Giblin’s ruling, however, the U.S. government finally did submit a motion to dismiss his suit. Bishop quickly filed a counterclaim, and it’s up to Giblin now to decide if the matter should proceed.

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