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January 17, 2011 10:31 ET

Tar Sands: U.S. Legal Challenge to Eminent Domain for TransCanada's Keystone XL Pipeline

Oklahoma Family Fighting Land Grab for Canadian Tar Sands Oil Pipeline; Find Common Cause with Affected Canadian First Nations

DURANT, OKLAHOMA--(Marketwire - Jan. 17, 2011) - In what is believed to be the first legal challenge to the use of eminent domain to secure U.S. right-of-way for a proposed tar sands oil pipeline, an Oklahoma family charges that TransCanada Corp. can not condemn their property because it is a foreign company whose project will not benefit American citizens.

The children and grandchildren of the late A.L. and Dollie White filed the challenge Friday, Jan. 14, in state district court in Durant, Oklahoma, in Bryan County near the Texas-Oklahoma border. They assert that TransCanada of Calgary, Alberta, has no right to force them to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline through the family farm.

"The Landowners' property cannot be legally taken by . . . a privately-owned foreign corporate entity . . . for the benefit of a privately-owned foreign entity . . . (and) a foreign government," says the challenge filed by 12 members of the White clan. "TransCanada does not have the legal right to construct the proposed pipeline . . . (and) acted in bad faith by failing to make a reasonable offer for the purchase of Defendants' property before filing the Petition for condemnation."

The 1,900-mile Keystone XL pipeline would carry crude oil from Alberta to Texas Gulf Coast refineries. Tar sands oil is some of the dirtiest in the world, containing more toxic chemicals than conventional oil and emitting more global warming gases in production. Its corrosive and acidic properties increase the danger of pipeline ruptures and threats to public health.

TransCanada is seeking approval from the U.S. State Department to build the pipeline and in the meantime is acquiring right-of-way along the proposed route. TransCanada has a U.S. subsidiary but is a Canadian corporation with heavy investment from the Chinese government and other foreign entities.

"I don't think it is fair for a foreign company doing business in the U.S. to come in and railroad us by taking our land without our consent," said Sue Kelso of Duncanville, Texas, daughter of A.L. and Dollie White. "Eminent domain is supposed to benefit everyone. Who's going to benefit from this pipeline except the oil companies and the Chinese?"

The White family has been in Bryan County since before Oklahoma became a state in 1907. A.L. and Dollie White bought the first 80 acres of the farm in 1941, adding another 100 acres in 1950. Their daughter Doris Lynn and her husband still live there, and Sue Kelso and her husband have built a home on it where they plan to retire. A grandchild wants to build a home in the corner of the property where A.L. White had a general store - the same part of the property TransCanada is trying to condemn.

"TransCanada has misrepresented and withheld material facts from the Court Appointed (eminent domain) Commissioners, the Court and the landowners," says the challenge filed before District Judge Mark R. Campbell. "Due to the actions and misrepresentations by TransCanada, Defendants procedural and substantive rights under the Oklahoma Statutes, the Oklahoma Constitution and the United States Constitution are violated."

Decatur is also headquarters for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. An indigenous leader from the tar sands region in Alberta said Canadian First Nations stand with the White family and others fighting the Keystone XL.

"As someone who has seen the terrible impacts of tar sands operations first hand, and who has been the elected chief of a community with elevated rates of cancer and contaminated water, I can understand an Oklahoman's desire to keep her property free of this dangerous pipeline and the dirty oil it will carry," said George Poitras, former chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in Alberta. "I wish Sue Kelso and the other property owners well in their efforts to protect their rights against the commercial interests of TransCanada."

Contact Information

  • Harlan Hentges
    Legal Counsel
    (405) 340-6554 or (405) 808-7669
    or
    Sue Kelso
    (972) 298-0189
    or
    Doris Lynn
    (580) 847-2761
    or
    DirtyOilSands.org
    Bill Walker
    (510) 759-9911 or (510) 548-5888
    or
    DirtyOilSands.org
    Kenny Bruno
    (718) 788-4402
    kbruno@corpethics.org