With Entry of Default, A Small Victory for a Texas Landowner in Keystone Pipeline Case

This spring, Mike Bishop, an irascible former chemical engineer, filed a pro se lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the permit it issued for the Oklahoma/Texas leg of the Keystone oil pipeline. On Wednesday, at Bishop's request, a federal clerk issued an entry of default against the Army Corps for failing to respond to his federal suit.

On Friday, Bishop says he intends to ask the judge for a default judgment and a revocation of the permit for the pipeline, which, as we noted yesterday, is 95 percent complete. "If the court upholds what I'm saying, the pipeline gets dug up."

There are a few scenarios here. The judge could, as Bishop says, enter a default judgment against the Army Corps. It's likely, though, that Bishop would first have to convince the judge that his claim is valid. Or, he could set it aside. Or, the feds could decide to respond.

"Why do you think a government agency and all the fucking officers, from the generals in Washington to the [Army Corps'] Galveston District, failed to respond?" he said. "My suit was sent and served on the attorney general of the United States of America. They don't ignore lawsuits. I'll tell you what I think. I think Obama told them to ignore it. He needs someone to have victory on this pipeline so the heat comes off him. I think it's a political move."

This is the third ongoing lawsuit Bishop has filed regarding the pipeline. He lives in a little cabin, on a wooded plot in Douglass, near Nacogdoches. The Keystone bisects his property, passing near his house. He filed suit against TransCanada, the pipeline company behind the Keystone, and won a brief injunction against the pipeline. He filed this lawsuit in April, contending that the Army Corps violated the National Environmental Protection Act by failing to provide an avenue for public comment on the pipeline permit.

Its approval came after President Obama called on the Army Corps to expedite the approval of the Keystone's southern leg, from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Texas Gulf refineries, while the northern leg from the Alberta tar sand mines underwent review. The 1,661-mile, 36-inch pipeline, if approved, will carry 700,000 gallons per day of diluted bitumen, a slurry of tar sand and natural-gas liquids past Bishop's home.

"I'm one simple landowner here in Texas who said, 'Fuck you! I've had enough and I'm not going to take it anymore and I'm going to fight you,'" he said. "These people need to be put in jail.

"And [Texas Attorney General] Greg Abbott needs to be standing by my side saying, 'I defend the right of private property owners to not have their land taken by private corporations.'"

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Brantley Hargrove