San Antonio Express-News
January 24, 2016
It is safe to say that property rights are sacred in Texas. Nowhere is this truer than in the Big Bend region of Texas. In 2012, the Texas Attorney General’s Office issued a Landowner’s Bill of Rights specifying all the protections each of us has against government interference, including the taking of property under eminent domain. One of the requirements for land condemnation is that it be for a public use. This is to ensure that the burden placed on a few will benefit the larger community; however, the mechanisms for balancing private property rights against the public good are now being exploited by profit-driven companies. The so-called TransPecos pipeline proposed by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners calls for a 125-foot-wide trench to be cleared across approximately 143 miles of private property in some of the most pristine country in Texas. A channel also will be tunneled beneath the Rio Grande River. While Texas landowners will be burdened by this pipeline, they will not receive the benefits. This pipeline was commissioned by the Federal Electricity Commission of Mexico, a foreign entity.
For landowners who resist, the multibillion-dollar company is filing for grant of a temporary restraining order and injunction against the resistant landowner, along with a civil lawsuit, seeking damages of $100,000, legal fees, court costs and a threat of eminent domain condemnation. This is not only unfair, it’s un-Texan. Surely, this is not what was intended when landowner protections were enumerated by the Texas Attorney General’s Office. The proposed TransPecos pipeline creates a dangerous precedent for private property rights holders all over Texas. Big Bend may seem like a world away from here, but the next pipeline might be in your backyard.
Amy Hardberger, Landowners under siege in the Big Bend, San Antonio Express News (January 24, 2016), accessible at: http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/commentary/article/Landowners-under-siege-in-the-Big-Bend-6777875.php