By Chris Baltimore and Jeffrey Jones
HOUSTON, Dec 13 (Reuters) - A Texas judge on Thursday lifted
a temporary restraining order filed by a landowner that had
halted some of TransCanada Corp's work on a pipeline to
carry heavy crude oil from Oklahoma to Texas refineries.
Texas County Court at Law Judge Jack Sinz in Nacogdoches
County ordered TransCanada last week to stop building a
pipeline, the southernmost section of the contentious Keystone
XL project, across the property of Michael Bishop in east Texas,
about 150 miles (241 km) northeast of Houston.
In the order, which took effect on Tuesday, Sinz said there
was "sufficient cause" to halt work on Bishop's 20-acre (8
hectare) property until a planned Dec. 19 hearing. At Thursday's
hearing, Sinz lifted that restraining order, TransCanada said.
Bishop has claimed that TransCanada is in violation of its
permit because the pipeline would carry heavy oil, or bitumen.
"TransCanada has followed all of the laws established by the
State of Texas and has the legal authority to construct the Gulf
Coast Pipeline, and none of Mr. Bishop's claims are supported by
credible facts," TransCanada said in a statement.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave a permit in July to
the $2.3 billion Gulf Coast Project, which will carry 800,000
barrels of crude per day from the Cushing, Oklahoma, storage hub
Early this year, TransCanada split the section off from
Keystone XL so it could start construction after President
Barack Obama rejected the part of the project that runs from
Canada through Nebraska. The company has reapplied to build that
$5.3 billion portion and expects a decision from the U.S. State
Department by the end of March.
There have been sporadic pipeline protests across Texas,
including demonstrators who chained themselves to machinery and
suspended themselves from trees in the path of the pipeline in
east Texas in November. Actress Daryl Hannah was arrested along
with a Texas landowner in October for attempting to block a
bulldozer from clearing land for the pipeline.
According to Bishop, a 64-year-old ex-Marine and medical
student, the material to be carried on the pipeline is not crude
oil but diluted bitumen, which does not meet the conditions of
Bishop, who is representing himself in the case, is also
challenging whether TransCanada, Canada's largest pipeline
company, can use eminent domain to condemn private land for
TransCanada says that, despite some limited landowner
protests, it has obtained voluntary negotiated easements for
about 99 percent of the Texas portion of the pipeline.
"You're always going to have a small number of people who
challenge these situations and it's just kind of the business
we're in," said Alex Pourbaix, president of TransCanada's oil
The pipeline is the southern leg of the Alberta-to-Houston
Keystone XL project, which TransCanada split in two after U.S.
President Barack Obama refused to approve the project last year
because of environmental concerns.
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