Column: A raw deal from TransCanada, Texas railroads
AUSTIN, Texas -- Arrogance is an unpleasant trait. When overlaid with ignorance, it really gets ugly.
Meet Arrogance: TransCanada Corporation. The Calgary-based $1.3 billion pipeline giant is now demanding a U.S. permit to run its Keystone XL pipeline right down our country's center to move toxic tar sands sludge some 1,700 miles from northern Canada to export facilities on the Texas Gulf Coast.
The environmental threat of the XL pipeline -- which would cross thousands of farms, suburbs, and water sources -- has been widely reported. Less widely known is the fact that this foreign corporation is crudely bullying American farm families and anyone else who dares to oppose its poisonous pursuit of profit.
Now, meet Ignorance: The Texas Railroad Commission. This state agency is already infamous for a tail-wagging acceptance of any scam put forth by the corporations it's supposed to regulate. Texas law meekly hands the public's power of eminent domain to certain pipeline companies, allowing them to grab people's land, usually at a low-ball price.
To get this extraordinary power, however, the grabsters must be "common carriers," meaning their pipelines are essentially public, available to all users. TransCanada's line, however, exists solely for its own private gain. Clearly, it's not qualified to use eminent domain.
Nonetheless, the high-handed Canadian outfit is using it. "Sell your property at our price," TransCanada tells landowners, "or we'll just take it." How can it get away with this arrogance? Because the Texas Railroad Commission, supposedly a watchdog agency, accepts any pipeline corporation's word that it is a "common carrier." No questions asked.
The good news is that Texans such as Julia Trigg Crawford are rebelling against this toxic combo of ignorance and arrogance. To learn about her gutsy fight, go to www.StandWithJulia.com.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.