By Chris Baltimore
HOUSTON, Dec 11 (Reuters) - A Texas judge has ordered
TransCanada Corp to halt work temporarily on a pipeline to carry
heavy crude oil from Oklahoma to Texas refineries on the
property of a local landowner who has sued the pipeline operator
Texas County Court at Law Judge Jack Sinz in Nacogdoches
County on Friday signed a temporary restraining order to stop
TransCanada from building a pipeline across the property of
Michael Bishop in east Texas, about 150 miles (241 km) northeast
of Houston. Sinz said there was "sufficient cause" to halt work
on Bishop's 20-acre (8 hectare) property until a planned Dec. 19
The judge's action is the latest of several landowner
disputes that could prove troublesome for TransCanada. In
February, another Texas judge temporarily halted pipeline work
in northeast Texas due to archaeological concerns.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave a permit in July to
the $2.3 billion Gulf Coast Project, which will carry 700,000
barrels of crude per day from the Cushing, Oklahoma, storage hub
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
"I'm a former Marine," Bishop told reporters on a conference
call. "I ain't run from a fight in my life, my friend, and I
damn sure ain't running from this one."
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
Bishop cited 2009 changes to Texas's eminent domain law that
specify that the law can be used only for public projects. "Here
we have a private foreign corporation taking sovereign taxpayer
land away from them under the guise of eminent domain," he said.
TransCanada said it has begun construction on Bishop's
property, and that he signed an easement allowing TransCanada
access to the property three weeks ago.
"Mr. Bishop's request does not impact overall construction,
and we are on track to bring this pipeline into operation in
late 2013," the company said in a statement. Bishop said he had
signed the easement, but said he acted "under coercion and
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.
The company expects a U.S. decision on whether the remaining
portion of the line can be built to come early next year.
(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Jones)
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