Thanks to the many hundreds of people who came out to 9 East Texas hearings in Roans Prairie, Nacogdoches, Lufkin, Cleveland, Big Sandy, Fairfield, Bryan, Tyler and ending in Beaumont, Texas!
(l to r) Bryan Hearing Speakers: Kathleen Hubbard, Brazos River Bottom Alliance, Linda Curtis (League), Tom "Smitty" Smith, Public Citizen, Mike Hathorn, Cherokee County Landowner; Roans Prairie Hearing audience.
(l to r) Beaumont Hearing Speakers: Dewayne Layfield, eminent domain attorney, Isom Ramsey; Beaumont resident, Linda Curtis, Jim Williams, retired chemical engineer with Public Citizen, Beaumont Deputy Fire Marshall Jeff McNeal; Roans Prairie Hearing Speakers: Linda Curtis, Joan Escamilla, Walker & Grimes counties landowner, Julia Trigg Crawford, Lamar County landowner (in back), Bob & Martha Strawn, Grimes County landowners.
(l to r) Fairfield Hearing Speakers: Barbara Lawrence, Linda Curtis, Debra Medina (We Texans), Charles Morgan, Tom "Smitty" Smith, Helen Picket; Tyler Hearing: Mike Hathorn, Smitty, Calvin Tillman.
Here's what we learned:
- In the face of eminent domain abuse in the extreme by large corporations (including some foreign), Texas landowners, ordinary citizens and even local governments have no meaningful local control. (We can also expect, with the recent passage of Prop 6, even more use of more eminent domain, now for water pipelines and private gain.)
- Due to 100 years of corporate personhood established in case law, there is little opportunity to stop three diluted bitumen carrying pipelines from risking private property, public safety and water resources throughout East Texas.
- Traditional property rights and environmental organizations are too divided by partisan politics and are without the tools (populism: a politic that favors ordinary citizens in their battles with the elite of any persuasion) to effectively fight.
- The Keystone XL pipeline is scheduled for commercial operation any day now -- without the proper review that one would expect following this CBS national news report on the Keystone XL's faulty construction.
- Most towns adjacent to the repurposed Seaway pipeline appear to have no idea that diluted bitumen (tar sands) has been running through the line for a year.
- The Pegasus is still shut down by the Attorney General of Arkansas. What are Texas officials, Lt. Governor Dewhurst and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, who've been asked to at least hold hearings, doing? Zip.
- Residents in Beaumont have a very dangerous LNG (Liquid Natural Gas line, to move gas from fracking) 50 feet from their backdoors -- and no one seems to give a wit.
- Union Pacific Railroad plans to put a rail classification yard in the Brazos River Bottom (a flood plain, no less) taking 1800 acres of some of the world's richest farm land and transporting hazardous materials!
Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican running for Governor, just rendered an opinion coaxed by leading Austin area Democrat State Senator Kirk Watson, in opposition to Austin ratepayers' right to the referendum (a public vote) to maintain local control of their utility.
This is not just about property rights, it's about local control. Do citizens really control their lives and communities, the decisions that affect them where they live?
Yes, it's sad. Are you mad? We are furious!
Here's what we CAN do:
- We can continue to sound the alarm about the three pipelines carrying diluted bitmen in East Texas.
- We can continue to organize at the local level.
- We can seek out new options to build a grassroots citizen's revolt.
As promised, here is the in-depth report from Public Citizen on the Keystone XL's construction problems.
We'll be back in touch after the holidays with some specific plans, so stay tuned. And, always, never hesitate to call or otherwise contact us!
Happy Holidays y'all. Seriously, enjoy the break and we'll get mad together in the new year!