....and so we wait....
Day 5 of waiting for the power to be restored. "Ice Friday", as it has been named, packed a punch here in Northeast Texas. Without power and heat, quiet rules Red'Arc Farm's crystalline world. No ringing phones, no blaring radio, no road traffic. All I hear right now, as I send this message from inside my car "charging station", is a chorus of tiny birds, and the staccato of drops from melting icicles.
Life has been a challenge but this freeze has given me pause to ponder the even bigger challenge that lies ahead.
Here in this frigid stillness we are also fixed, waiting to hear the Texas Supreme Court's determination on whether our case stays alive. We have filed our petition, a 25 page document stating why we believe our case merits an appeal. TransCanada has surreptitiously asked the Texas Supreme Court for a waiver from responding, hoping they can just plant their flag and walk away.
Should the Supreme Court allow TransCanada this waiver then our case dies, denying us our day in court. The question remains, will the Texas Supreme Court leave us out in the cold, ignoring its own precedents or will it allow both sides of this argument to be heard? Despite this uncertainty, we possess the backbone and willingness to stand up against adversity with the conviction that this land of ours is worth fighting for. We are not alone in this conviction.
Two years ago it was this very Supreme Court that ruled in Denbury Green that property rights are precious, deeming them "a foundational liberty, not a contingent privilege." Gaining a common-carrier permit to build a private oil pipeline cannot be a ruse into obtaining eminent-domain power. Nothing leaves landowners so vulnerable. "Our Constitution demands far more" were their very words. We are not satisfied by the assurances of TransCanada's Marketing directors that this pipeline will be a public utility for the citizens of Texas. The burden of proof has not been met so, as citizens of this land, we demand more.
The Texas Supreme Court stood up for all landowners in their just Denbury Green ruling. We also stand ready to defend the right to decide what happens to our most valued natural resource, land. I have faith the Texas Supreme Court will see our case as an extension of these same critical and timely property rights issues, and ultimately hear our case.
Till then, we wait....Hopeful, Positive and Confident.
Next week, on September 21st our nation comes together for Draw the Line. At over 100 locations across this great country, we will gather to call out Keystone XL and other tar sands polluters. Fed up with these oil companies' motivations of greed and indifference, we take to the streets, our voices a roar...our presence a force...our message crystal clear. We say No to Keystone XL, No to re-starting Pegasus, No to twinning Seaway, No to the devastation of Enbridge, sadly there are so many toxic pipelines. Please join this peaceful but powerful action, making your own statement that these projects are all risk and no reward, and that our planet deserves better. To locate an event near you, or to organize one please visit: act.350.org/event/draw_the_line/
Me? I drew the line against TransCanada here at the farm years ago, and defend it still as we appeal our case to the Texas Supreme Court. On September 21st I gladly draw another line, one I believe will help ignite Texans to organize across the partisan divide and demand attention, answers, and action from our State and its leaders. The Inaugural Independent Texans Convention will be held in Bastrop, and I will be there. Through a powerhouse team of leaders and visionaries from around Texas, we will build new coalitions around the issues of eminent domain reform, water conservation and protection, and redistricting reform, to name just a few.
We absolutely cannot wait any longer. These issues demand immediate attention, yet our pleas to those at the State Capitol have gone unheeded and unanswered. The responsibility falls to the citizens of Texas to do this on our own, and we will answer that challenge. Step up and become the bedrock of change.
Next week will be Draw the Line week for me, as I'll also be attending events in College Station, Texas, and York, Nebraska sharing my story, and meeting others who are also building bridges to achieve change.
Draw the Line Events I’ll be attending.
College Station, Texas
On Thursday evening, September 19th, I will be in College Station, the guest of Brazos Progressives, an exciting coalition empowering their community through networking and encouraging grassroots programs. Speaking in my old hometown, and at the invitation of my friend and high school classmate Hugh Stearns, I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to share my experiences. Please join us at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 305 Wellborn Road from 7-9 pm. Please check the website for more information: http://www.brazosprogressives.org/
Please join me in Bastrop on the 21st, we can draw our lines together. For more information, and to register please visit: http://www.indytexans.com/convention/
Lastly, on Sunday, September 22nd, I'll travel to York, Nebraska for the dedication of Bold Nebraska's “Build Our Energy Barn Project.” This solar and wind powered facility is being built directly on the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline, and I am honored to be invited to join them. This barn stands as proof that we can invest in local, clean energy. True to form, this is another bold statement being made by our Pipeline Fighting neighbors to the north, and I look forward to taking part, and meeting many of the Nebraskans who've supported me in my fight here in Texas. For more information on this project go to http://boldnebraska.org/build
For us proud Texans the legacy of drawing a line in the dirt needs no explanation, as that simple but bold act turned the tide in our State's battle for independence. The line we draw as a nation on September 21st can turn the tide as well, saving more than just a State, it can help save our planet. Please attend a Draw the Line event, join me in Bastrop at the convention, write a letter to an elected official, or simply don your No KXL button that day. Follow your heart, and by whatever means necessary send the message that we will not allow Keystone XL or any other tar sands pipeline to cross the heartlands of America, threatening our water, land and air, and violating the property rights we all hold so dear.
Draw that line...Take a stand
The dawn of a new day at Red'Arc Farm...literally and figuratively....
Yes, you heard right, the Court of Appeals ruled against us this week, saying TransCanada can take our land through eminent domain because they qualify as a Common Carrier. An interesting assessment, since the Texas Railroad Commission, who rubber stamps these Common Carrier designations, sent a letter saying they do NOT have jurisdiction over Keystone in Texas since it is an interstate pipeline. Hmmmmm.
It took us about 30 seconds to decide to appeal this decision to the Texas Supreme Court, and the wheels are already in motion. As shown by the Denbury case, the Texas Supreme Court has demonstrated great courage and willingness to overturn the lower courts' decisions to protect Texas citizens from eminent domain abuse by private corporations.
TransCanada, a foreign corporation, is using weak eminent domain laws to take property for their own private gain from hard-working Texans. Our founding fathers never intended eminent domain to be used for this purpose. As a landowner and an American I support energy independence, but I value individual and constitutional freedoms above all. So, our fight will continue…it’s about much more than just the Crawford Farm now.
In addition to our appeal, the next steps will focus on asking our legislators and fellow citizens to hold public hearings on eminent domain, and expose the many risks these pipelines pose to those of us living along the route. Together we will ask our officials to change the laws that have left me and hundreds of other Texans no other recourse than to battle giant deep-pocketed oil corporations in court. And where we find our legislators unresponsive to the wants and needs of the people they represent...well, we’ll elect new ones.
We, the people, hold incredible power, something I think we've forgotten when we watch all the injustice swirling around us. Whether it’s here in Texas, or in your hometowns around the country, its time to mobilize and create change from the bottom up. Its time to stand up, speak out, and maybe even act up.
Every donation and letter of encouragement I receive is special, but this recent one touched my heart and I wanted to share it with you. Hard earned quarters and dimes, and a handwritten letter in pencil. Thank you Jack.
My appeal before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals will be Tuesday, July 30th at 1:30 PM in Greenville, Texas in the Hunt County Auxiliary Courtroom, 2700 Johnson Street. Chief Justice Josh R. Morriss, III, Justice Jack Carter and Justice Bailey C. Moseley have reviewed our case and are ready to hear oral arguments from both parties. I'm told we will get 30 minutes total and TransCanada will get 20, so it should be short and to the point. My attorney Wendi Hammond will argue, as we did in the Lamar County Court, that TransCanada lacks eminent domain authority for this interstate pipeline, and therefore should not have been able to take our land from us. You are welcome to join us at this hearing, but please know it is unlikely the judges will make a ruling that day. Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing so many of you who have been standing with us throughout this fight.
As you know, TransCanada chose not to wait on this appeal, and has been aggressively constructing this pipeline across our farm since May. They are now in their final construction stage, working 24 hours a day on their long horizontal drill under our creek, and plan to complete this portion by mid August.
Refusing to concede even as TransCanada's machinery and workers pillage my land, I invited an incredible group of folks here to the farm a few weeks ago for a strategy meeting. Coming at their own expense from Nebraska, Michigan, Oklahoma and all across Texas, these patriots shared their unique passions and perspectives on the bigger fight. And just as I'd hoped, this collective of amazing people found overlap in ideas, which created newfound energies, and a team was born. Our discussions focused on new and innovative tactics, particularly geared towards preparing East Texas for the worst case scenario — a spill. Too little information has been shared with Texans about the new and repurposed pipelines snaking through our communities. What exactly are they carrying? What are the risks? How do we protect our land and water? Our strategy team has already had one followup conference call, committees have been formed and dispatched, and we have our next call July 31st. As our plans evolve into action items, and the circle widens we will call upon you to help...our fight is moving to new levels.
This strategy meeting came on the heels of a successful press conference at the Capitol in Austin where I joined Debra Medina and Jim Hightower-two populists from across the aisle. We urged Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus to call for an "Interim Study", to include full public hearings on eminent domain and public safety, particularly related to water. The letter we distributed to many at the Capitol can be found here on Independent Texans' website: http://www.indytexans.com/wp-content/uploads/Hearings_2013Final.pdf
The hearings we want will be similar to those orchestrated by Linda Curtis of Independent Texans, as well as other organizations, as part of their effort to defeat the Trans-Texas Corridor. Those hearings, mandated by federal law, provided venues for a great deal of information to be delivered directly to those potentially impacted. Tens of thousands of Texas citizens organized together in that fight, and their success provides inspiration for our challenge now.
Though public hearings are not yet required for our pipeline issues, we are hopeful the Lt. Governor and/or Speaker of the Texas House will call for them — something they are empowered to do. And to get the ball rolling we intend to organize and hold the first hearings around the State ourselves, a true representation of citizens taking charge and doing what needs to be done. We are hopeful some of our State Representatives and State Senators will join us, with these early “Citizen led” hearing being the template by which later “State supported” ones will follow. Linda Curtis and others are working on these meetings, and welcome your input. If you know your State Rep or Senator well and want to help encourage them to participate please let us know. You can call Linda at 512-535-0989 or email her at email@example.com.
Mine is not the only fight going on in this arena. There are many others with courage much greater than mine challenging the system where they believe wrong needs to be made right. Texans want and deserve answers, and are increasingly urging their local officials to start asking the tough questions about public safety and preparedness. Our city leaders, first responders, groundwater districts, local emergency planning committees and other community organizations need to step up too and demand the information they need to properly do their jobs. As part of this new movement, take it upon yourself to call your local and State officials, write letters to the editor, create a stir about public safety. This will create momentum and validation that these public hearings are a necessity. When enough of us start speaking up, and speaking out, we can no longer be ignored.
Change is definitely in the air. Coalitions are forming across political party lines creating new synergies. Citizens are taking the lead ensuring communities are enlightened and prepared. Step up and be part of it. And I borrow Jack's words now as my own message to you..... “As a person hoping to live in said future I am indebted to you”. Onward.
Friends...please join me here at the Crawford family farm for a Pipeline Fighters Potluck meet-and-greet June 29th.
How do we make sure what happened to my family doesn’t happen to you next? Our Texas lawmakers failed to act during this legislative session … most have been completely silent, even though everyone knows that eminent domain for private gain is despicable.
So, what are we going to do? It’s time for us to take matters into our own hands and get organized.
Come to our farm on Saturday, June 29th at 6pm in Direct, Texas. We’ll break bread and figure out how to keep land in the hands of the Texans that own it -- and our aquifers clean for our grandchildren.
Bring your creativity, your brains, your Come-And-Take-It Texas attitude ... and maybe a covered dish to share.
We can’t do it without you.
Julia Trigg Crawford will be attending a press conference this Monday outside the Capitol Grill Capitol Extension, E1.002 at 3 pm. Can you join us? We're going to be calling for public hearings in East Texas to make sure that our issues with eminent domain and tar sands are heard!
photo: Julia Trigg Crawford
TransCanada's armed security guards have been across the road watching me day and night since April. When I asked them what they were guarding they'd almost sheepishly say they were watching the equipment. But you see, back then there WAS no equipment, just an empty pasture.
The equipment finally arrived in May, and with it came more surveillance in the form of a photographer/videographer team. TransCanada told me they were documenting construction. But instead they film me...every step I take, every turn I make, every fence row I walk. Sometimes they hide behind parked vehicles while they film, sometimes they're brave enough to be out in the open.
Why are they filming me? Am I doing something illegal? I have specifically asked TransCanada why they are filming me while I am on my own land, they've not given me an answer.
Since TransCanada won't answer I thought I'd ask the videographer. While he was filming me the other day I motioned to him I'd like to talk, indicating to meet over at the fence. Stepping out from behind his camera and tripod, he responded with a wry smile, turned to light a cigarette, leaned over to say something to the photographer, and they both laughed. A friend was with me that day, and captured the photo below.
photo: Rebecca Jane Rodriguez
Not to be outdone, the armed security guards now have their own video camera. One day I approached simply to introduce myself, as there was a new face on the security team I wanted to meet. The camera came out of the vehicle and followed my movements as I walked up to within just a few feet of where they stood. Asking the filming officer “Is this really necessary?” all I got was an icy stare. The most outrageous day so far was two video cameras and one still camera filming as I walked along the grassy shoulder of an empty country road.
Surveillance for months. Armed guards day and night. Cameras filming me as I walk on my own property. Helicopters buzzing overhead, I won't even go into that. And TransCanada expects us to believe their ad in our local paper stating “We want to be more than just a pipeline company; we want to be a trusted neighbor.”?
Security Helicopter Overhead
One of TransCanada's security helicopter circling Julia Trigg Crawford's farm where the Keystone XL Pipeline is being constructed. video: Julia Trigg Crawford
Photo by Rebecca Jane Rodriguez
Most mornings here on the farm begin the same. The sunlight sneaks through my northern-facing window as the dogs begins to stir, signaling the start of the day. As I look out toward the fields, I view a vast sea of crops, a rich contrast of textures and colors. The bearded wheat is turning gold now, just a few days away from harvest. Nearby, lush young corn waves its vibrant green leaves in the wind. Last week we planted soybeans on the dryland corners, and soon a lighter shade of green will join the palette. Up on the hill the old windmill churns as it always has with its groans and squeaks. Just a bunch of rusted metal, but to me it is alive and the gears spin a tune that soothes my soul. These familiar sights and sounds of the farm have become a comfort to me. But my world has changed and a chill of uncertainty looms heavy in the air. Things are very different now as I look to the south across the pasture, and what I witness is crushing.
Despite my best efforts, TransCanada's heavy machinery has rolled in, bringing the rumble of a foreign industry to invade my family's farm. The beeping and clanking of metal has begun, gut-wrenching noises that will continue throughout the day. Gaping holes have been dug, leaving mountains of red earth to make way for the monster 36-inch diameter blue-green pipe that will become the Keystone XL. I've watched this happen to others along the line, and sadly now it's my turn. With the ripping and tearing of the land my heart feels the same pain, and I search for the answer to the question many of us ask: “What can I do to make this all stop?”
Three years ago when I moved here to take over as the farm manager, I wasn't looking for a fight. I came to the family farm for the quiet life. I knew nothing about tar sands, eminent domain, or TransCanada. But then the Keystone XL pipeline literally landed in my backyard. Once I learned the facts about what this pipeline really meant for our land, I knew the risks far outweighed the rewards. In the event of a spill, no amount of money could compensate for the loss of the water and land that sustain us. But TransCanada told us we had no choice and condemned our land, so we decided to fight. Little did we know in the tiny community of Direct (with a population of about 70), the stand I decided to take for my family would eventually play out on a national stage.
Together look at what we've been able to do-
In this oil-rich state, Texans for the first time have had the courage to stand up against not only this pipeline, but also Big Oil and the deep pocketed groups that represent it. Brave folks like Eleanor Fairchild and David Daniel have stood their ground. Thanks to the support of thousands from around the world, we have been able to continue to wage a legal battle against TransCanada. We have exposed the process in Texas that allows a private corporation to steal your land so easily, while our elected officials turn a blind eye. Collectively, we have all held steadfast to our principles. In spite of TransCanada's empty promises of jobs and energy independence, we have created a different dialogue around clean air, water and land, the real building blocks to a sustainable economy.
Despite the bravery of those who stood up and said no, TransCanada has been masterful with its money, power, and influence to sway public opinion. Cleverly repackaging the southern leg of the Keystone XL as the Gulf Coast Section, they have skirted a presidential permit and diverted public awareness away from what's happening here in Texas. Contradictory to its self-imposed title as a “trusted neighbor,” TransCanada has attempted to quash opposition, manipulate the system, bully landowners, gag citizens, and mislead the public at every turn. It sickens me to hear our elected officials continue to defend this pipeline. To side with a corporation over the rights of private landowners is to abandon the very people they claim to represent.
It's hard not to feel abandoned when the attention has veered away from Texas and toward the decision on the northern leg of the Keystone XL. As I look out my window I'm reminded my fight is here, staring me down every day from just a few hundred yards away. I was told I am the last piece of the puzzle for the pipeline to connect and complete the southern portion of the project. Armed security guards hired by TransCanada sit at the edge of my property, watching both day and night, awaiting the slightest movement that would interfere with the agenda. I feel overcome with a sense of dread, yet if I sit here and do nothing, I can no longer use the word hope. Much like the Alamo, this is my last stand.
Yesterday I watched workers weld together massive pieces of pipe and begin laying them in the ground, and it took everything in me not to jump that fence and stand in their way in hopes that would halt the destruction. I knew it would not. Despite my pending appeal, it seems inevitable that my land will soon become part of the Keystone XL. Right now, I feel pretty defeated, beat down, frustrated, and helpless. I feel like I've tried everything. I'm fighting them both in the courtroom with the legal system and in the court of public opinion via the media. What else is there? With seemingly every choice taken from me, what other options do I still have left to fight?
Of this I am certain, I couldn't have made it this far without the support of many. This land IS my land and I have a duty to defend what I deem as sacred. I know I'm not alone in this thought. Many of you feel the same way I do. As disillusioned, angry, and frustrated as I am, I refuse to give up now at the eleventh hour. We are not done. The fight is still on, but the next steps must be new, bold and brave. Will you stand with me?