How did this website come about?
It was started June 17, 2013, when a cross-partisan effort led by Debra Medina, Julia Trigg Crawford and Jim Hightower called for an interim study and public hearings related to eminent domain abuse, public safety and protection of water resources at a press event at the Texas Capitol in Austin. This letter was delivered that day to Lt. David Dewhurst, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and all members of the Texas House and Senate: http://www.indytexans.com/wp-content/uploads/Hearings_2013Final.pdf. We are still waiting for Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and/or Texas House Speaker Joe Straus to take positive action. We are now in process of working with a number of state representatives and state senators to independently hold hearings.
What is the basis of your claim that there is eminent domain abuse by pipelines in Texas?
The Keystone XL pipeline owned by TransCanada and the Seaway Pipeline (in process of twinning this line), co-owned by Enbridge, Inc. and Enterprise Products Partners L.P., both carrying diluted bitumen and traversing most counties in East Texas, have used the “T4 loophole”. By simply checking a box, with no criteria whatsoever on how pipelines can qualify as a common carrier, they have claimed such status in order to gain eminent domain power. In so doing, they have brazenly thwarted the fundamental and constitutional rights of East Texans to private property, including their water.
Who is Julia Trigg Crawford and what does she have to do with this?
Julia Trigg Crawford and family own Red’Arc farm in Direct, Texas (near Paris). The Crawford family has stood tall against TransCanada’s effort to force the Keystone XL pipeline on property owners by filing suit. The Crawford case is now on its way to the Texas Supreme Court. Their case is emblematic of an assault on all Texans’ rights to private property. So far, the Texas Legislature has failed to close the T4 loophole, despite a regular session and three special sessions in 2013.
Why are you calling for public hearings?
It is imperative that all landowners have an opportunity to express their frustrations about their property being taken against their will (and what should be, their legal rights) for transporting substances that will not benefit Texans and which carry significant risks.
These companies have made a mockery of the Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights (TLBOR) and any legitimate claims that the Texas Railroad Commission should maintain in respecting those private property rights: https://www.oag.state.tx.us/agency/landowners_billofrights.pdf. Currently, pipeline companies are under no obligation to tell landowners what is being transported, much less disclose the risks of these substances to their land, their homes and their water.
We believe that holding public hearings would underscore the importance of amending the TLBOR – which not only demands legislative leadership but citizen action.
What are the public safety concerns?
- There are three pipelines that are scheduled to carry diluted bitumen or tar sands in East Texas; the ExxonMobil-owned Pegasus, the Keystone XL and the Seaway. Their locations and the products transported need to be readily known by citizens, local officials, and those responsible for public safety and protection of waterways.
- In order for mined bitumen to become transportable, a number of chemical diluents are added. 30 different toxins were reported in the dilbit crude (tar sands) when the Pegasus line ruptured in Mayflower, Arkansas on March 29, 2013.
- The Pegasus is temporarily shut down due to a suit filed by the Arkansas Attorney General and the US Department of Justice for state and federal violations. We believe that Texas officials need to urge the Pegasus not be allowed to reopen without exceptional scrutiny.
- It is our understanding through other dilbit pipeline spills that local first responders are not prepared for a spill of diluted bitumen. We are asking local and state officials to confirm otherwise.
- The Pegasus and Seaway pipelines have been repurposed to carry Canadian diluted bitumen, but portray themselves as either carrying conventional crude to the Railroad Commission.
What happened with the Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas?
The Pegasus, a 60-year-old line, experienced a major breach in Mayflower, Arkansas on March 29th. The Pegasus is currently embroiled in a suit with the Arkansas Attorney General and the Department of Justice. The spill was so threatening to the public and local water supplies that Arkansas state officials and townspeople have petitioned ExxonMobil to reroute a 13-mile portion of the Pegasus out of the watershed for Little Rock’s drinking water: (http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jun/13/nation/la-na-mayflower-pipeline-20130614).
What are the public safety issues you’re concerned about with the Keystone XL?
Aside from eminent domain abuse, we have been hearing from landowners throughout East Texas that the newly constructed Gulf Coast Segment to the Keystone XL, which has been buried for months, is being excavated with pipe being cut out and replaced due to construction related anomalies that affect the integrity of the pipeline.
One TransCanada vendor, Pegasus Universal, recently acknowledged that just between the Sabine River and the Sulphur River, there have been as many as 45 anomalies being remedied related to problems with welds, dents, sags and other problems with pipeline construction. Since this initial report, dozens more excavations with pipeline being replaced have taken place.
What is your understanding of the public safety preparation of first responders in areas adjacent to these three pipelines?
It is our understanding that most of the fire departments in rural Texas are voluntary and are not equipped to deal with a hazardous materials spill of diluted bitumen. Many of these fire departments would have to ask larger cities — often an hour or more away — to send hazmat teams to come to their rescue. These hazmat teams might not know what is in the dilbit, since this information is proprietary. In addition, there is also a serious question as to whether the pipeline operators have adequate plans for evacuation, emergency response and clean up. Because emergency response plans are only filed once operations begin. In other words, no one gets to review it beforehand.
What exactly are the threats to water posed by the Pegasus, the keystone xl and the seaway pipelines?
Clean up is extraordinarily problematic with spills of diluted bitumen because the bitumen portion itself sinks in water, while toxins like benzene and hydrogen sulfide go airborne often leading to evacuations. One of the costliest onshore spills in U.S. history, the Michigan Kalamazoo River spill of 1.1 million barrels of dilbit in July 2010, by an Enbridge pipeline carrying diluted bitumen, is still not cleaned today and has cost more than $850 million. This very recent Detroit Times article well describes the disruption to citizens and businesses in Kalamazoo that continues despite the clean up: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130715/METRO06/307150023.
Of utmost concern to us is that all three of these pipelines carrying tar sands — the Pegasus, the Keystone XL and the Seaway — cross the vital Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer and others that supplies 10-12 million people with water for drinking and agricultural needs. A hydrology report issued in 2011 warned about potential great harm a leak involving diluted bitumen into the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer would cause. The report was largely ignored, we believe by pipeline proponents because it was commissioned by the Sierra Club. We strongly urge that this is another very critical and urgent reason for an Interim Study and for the state of Texas to do its own study. That report is parked on this website here: http://www.indytexans.com/wp-content/uploads/Hydrology-Report-TransonCarrizo.pdf.
What specific facilities and waterways are threatened by these three pipelines?
Finally, we believe it imperative that preventive measures be taken now to protect Texas waterways from the type of devastation that occurred in Kalamazoo. The Pegasus crosses Lake Fork, which provides a water supply for the cities of Dallas and Longview; the North and South Sulphur Rivers that feed Wright Patman, Texarkana’s main water supply; Richland Chambers Lake, a Ft. Worth water supply; Lake Halbert, a Corsicana water supply; and five tributaries upstream of Lake Livingston, key to the City of Houston’s water supply. The Seaway crosses the Red River, Trinity River and Brazos River as well as Richland Chambers; three tributaries which flow into Lake Lavon, a Dallas water supply; tributaries upstream of Cedar Creek Reservoir, a Ft. Worth water supply, and crosses within a mile around Lake Halbert. The Keystone crosses five major rivers and three aquifers including the Sulphur River several times and feeds water supplies for several lakes and future reservoirs. A Keystone spill could affect the drainages into Lake Cypress Springs that also serves as a water supply for Mount Vernon and Winnsboro.
These two documents delineate the facilities (Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Schools, Residences, Churches and Major Rivers and Water Supplies) that a breach of the Pegasus or Seaway in Texas could threaten.
What can be done to prevent spills like the Kalamazoo and Mayflower spills?
The first step is to keep the Pegasus closed until and unless it can be safely secured. The purpose of the Interim Study and hearings is to alert officials and the public of the dangers of dilbit pipelines.
Since Michigan’s Kalamazoo river spill is on its third year of clean up from the Enbridge spill (2010), and Exxon’s Pegasus is shut down until further notice, pipelines such as these need to be reassessed for the type of raw, unrefined diluted bitumen product that they carry. The Pegasus pipeline in Texas is at least 60-years old and has been running diluted bitumen through a line that was never designed to carry it. The 37-year old Seaway is to carry diluted bitumen and it is in the process of twinning its existing line with a second new line forcing the condemnation of more landowners. At the minimum for all of these pipelines, including the Keystone XL, full disclosure as to the materials being used to build the pipeline is warranted. Emergency response plans need to be filed before, not after operations begin with the ability of municipalities to review these plans. Unless we know precisely what the status of these pipeline are – with the full disclosure of what they carry and emergency response plans filed and available for review prior to start-up – they should not be allowed to operate.