April 28, 2012 – 9:24 p.m.

No Love From The Heart of Texas

While Congress and the Obama administration continue to wrangle over whether to allow TransCanada Corp. to build its Keystone XL oil pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands region to the Texas Gulf Coast, the company has been making some enemies in the Midwest and Texas with its use of eminent domain to acquire private property for the project.

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In one of the latest developments, TransCanada has remapped its pipeline around the environmentally fragile Sand Hills region of Nebraska in an attempt to allay White House worries about the environment in the event of an oil spill.

Nebraska is one of the areas where conservative property-rights advocates have figuratively teamed up with liberal environmentalists to fight the pipeline, which is TransCanada’s second route south. This one would run to the gulf, where the oil could be exported.

The battle in Congress pits environmental groups and a majority of Democrats against the oil industry and its Republican allies. However, the company’s use of eminent domain is starting to blur these divides in traditionally oil-friendly states such as Texas.

If completed, the pipeline would run through nine states and countless privately owned parcels of land.

At a Feb. 17 tea party protest in Paris, Texas, a conservative, private property-focused group, We Texans, rallied against the use of eminent domain, declaring that “this is a private company taking land for private use and for profit.”

TransCanada contends it is a common carrier of oil — not just its own — and is entitled to acquire land by eminent domain in states such as Nebraska and Texas that allow it. It cites a diverse portfolio of delivery contracts with domestic and international companies.

One Texas landowner, Julia Trigg Crawford, told StateImpact, a collaboration of National Public Radio and member stations, “The issue, when you boil it down, is property rights, a foreign company’s ability to come in and take your land.”