Nacogdoches County Court at Law Judge Jack Sinz issued a temporary restraining order against TransCanada Tuesday, preventing the company from continuing construction of the southern leg of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline crossing Mike Bishop's land.
I met Bishop a few weeks ago at his place in Douglass, a tiny hamlet of 500 souls nearly three hours east of Dallas. The Keystone XL, a 1,200-mile pipeline that will carry, among other things, oil sands crude to Gulf Coast refineries, neatly bisects his 20 acres. And Bishop, I quickly found, was none too happy about it. Nor is the mercurial 64-year-old ex-Marine and retired chemist the kind of guy who takes this kind of thing lying down.
He's flying his American flag upside down, signifying a citizen in distress. As far as he's concerned, he told me, he is being invaded by a Canadian corporation. TransCanada has secured its pipeline's path through eminent domain, the compulsory purchase of private land, because of its status as a common carrier. This exemption allows for-profit enterprises to condemn private property if it cannot reach an deal with the landowner.
Bishop wouldn't cooperate, but eventually he relented and settled with the company. TransCanada might have thought that was the end of it, but they, of course, would be very wrong. Last month, Bishop sued the Railroad Commission of Texas over the pipeline permit it issued to TransCanada. Then he sued TransCanada itself, alleging the company misled him regarding the permits it had obtained and the cargo the pipeline would carry.
On Tuesday, he succeeded in bringing any construction on his property to a halt, pending the outcome of a Dec. 19 hearing. Said the judge:
"It clearly appears from the Application and Affidavit of Plaintiff Michael Bishop, that sufficient cause exists to issue a temporary restraining order until the merits of the Application can be presented to a jury. Without a temporary restraining order, Plaintiff will suffer immediate and irreparable injury, a violation of his Constitutional rights as delineated by the Texas constitution. This Application was heard ex parte and this Order granted without notice to the Defendant because further delay cannot be redressed by the Court; because Plaintiff has lost property and because Plaintiff has been defrauded and denied his Constitutional rights."
I couldn't reach Bishop as of this post, probably because he's fielding calls from every major news outlet in America.