Two days after a Nacogdoches County man won a temporary restraining order against TransCanada, halting construction of the controversial, 1,200-mile Keystone XL pipeline across his land, the judge threw it out, citing a dearth of evidence indicating the company had defrauded him.
County Court at Law Judge Jack Sinz said Tuesday that the temporary order was intended to prevent irreparable harm to landowner Mike Bishop. Bishop alleged the company made fraudulent claims regarding the nature of its cargo -- diluted bitumen from the Canadian tar sands as opposed to conventional crude. He fears the former may be corrosive, increasing the risk that the pipeline will rupture.
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On Thursday, an attorney for TransCanada attacked both Bishop's claim of fraud and, it seemed, the very legality of Sinz's restraining order. "He shook our hand, cashed our check and then turned around and sued us," TransCanada attorney Matt Freeman told the judge. Bishop settled with TransCanada for $75,000 on the pipeline right-of-way across his property in early November. He now claims he settled under duress, and that the company misled federal and state authorities by referring to the diluted bitumen that will eventually flow through it as crude oil. At first, even Sinz questioned Freeman about the company's authority to pipe diluted bitumen through Bishop's land and the state of Texas. However, after Bishop acknowledged that he was aware of what the pipeline would carry when he signed the settlement papers, Sinz's hands were tied.
"You did not have to grant them the easement," Sinz noted.
Bishop said he didn't feel as though he had any choice at the time. "Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and do certain things to get to an end,"
TransCanada may continue construction of the pipeline, which will run from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Texas Gulf. Federal approval is pending on the northern section, connecting Cushing to the Alberta tar sands mines. The December 19 hearing on a permanent injunction against construction on Bishop's property will go ahead.