Eminent Domain

Salvador Castro for KUT

After months of community protests, a group of more than 20 landowners and city leaders gathered Monday to announce that Hays County and the City of Kyle had officially joined a lawsuit to oppose a natural gas pipeline proposed to run through Central Texas.

Travis Bubenik / Houston Public Media

If you want to cook up a battle over private property rights in Texas, here’s the recipe:

Take a handful of sprawling cities and growing populations that are expanding into once-rural areas, add a booming oil and gas industry with a desperate need for new pipelines to move record-high volumes of hydrocarbons, and sprinkle in the new electric lines needed to power both of those trends.

Image by Todd Wiseman/Jay Root, Texas Tribune

As the White House and Congress battle it out over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, the Canadian company that wants to build it is still using its land-seizure powers to get property easements for the ambitious project.

And it’s ruffling some feathers in a politically conservative patch of Texas.

Several landowners along the proposed pipeline route say TransCanada has bullied them into selling their property by asserting “eminent domain” authority, the same power that governments use to seize land for highways and other public infrastructure projects. A property rights coalition tracking the condemnation proceedings has uncovered at least 89 land condemnation lawsuits involving TransCanada in 17 counties from the Red River to the Gulf Coast — cases that could test the limits of a private company's power to condemn property.

Photo courtesy of Austin firefighter Jimmy Taylor.

Firefighters Containing Some Fires, New Ones Spreading

The Texas Forest Service told KUT this morning firefighters are making progress on some of the bigger wildfires in West Texas.  But the fire in the Fort Davis area is still not contained.  That fire has burned about 120,000  acres. The Forest Service says several new smaller fires also popped up yesterday in East Texas. The Austin Fire Department says Austin firefighters who’ve deployed to West Texas are mainly being assigned to protect structures such as homes, schools and businesses from the flames.