In Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas, LLC v. Texas Rice Land Partners, the Beaumont Court of Appeals articulated the test that should be applied when considering whether the condemnation of private property, which would result favorably for pipeline companies, should be allowed. In Denbury, the Beaumont Court of Appeals balanced the protection of private property rights against the need for true common carrier pipeline companies to condemn private property. The court held that in order to condemn private property, a substantial public interest must exist to justify such condemnation. The Texas Supreme Court, however, reversed the decision of the Beaumont Court of Appeals. The Court explained that the substantial public interest test used to support common-carrier status was incorrect. Furthermore, the Court held that Texas law only requires evidence establishing a reasonable probability that the pipeline will, at some point after construction, serve at a minimum one customer unaffiliated with the pipeline owner. The Texas Supreme Court ruling is inconsistent with Texas courts’ valuation of private property. Since 1876, Texas courts have consistently affirmed the value of private property rights. Thus, requiring common carrier pipelines to prove a substantial public interest before private property is condemned in order to benefit them and further their interests, would not be an unfamiliar process. Texas landowners should not sacrifice the fair treatment of their private property rights to bolster the pipeline industry or the Texas economy. Condemnation of private property should be evaluated under more rigorous standards. Merely checking a box should not be sufficient to condemn private property. Common carrier pipeline companies should be treated more similarly to TxDOT or the Public Utility Commission which both require lengthier and more rigorous procedures in order to condemn private property. Needless to say, a pipeline company can condemn private property in as few as sixty-four days.
St. Mary's University School of Law
Nicholas Laurent & Christopher Oddo,
Pipe(Line) Dreams Post-Denbury Green.,
St. Mary's L.J.
Available at: https://commons.stmarytx.edu/thestmaryslawjournal/vol48/iss4/3
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