The Holdouts

These are the stories of three families who were willing to walk away from thousands of dollars—and battle loved ones, their communities and their government—to make a stand against Big Oil in Texas, even when facing insurmountable odds.

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Texas Reporters Fight for Access to Fracking Facts

Earlier this month, the residents of Denton, Texas—located on one of the country’s largest natural gas reserves and home to some 275 gas wells—voted to ban fracking. The ban was a first for a city in Texas, where fracking has enabled an oil and gas boom; the state now accounts for one-third of the United States’ natural gas production. In this period of boom and blowback, the state agencies that regulate the oil and gas industry here are perhaps more important than ever—and, according to frustrated reporters, increasingly impenetrable.

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House Bill Tackles Pipeline Companies’ Eminent Domain Powers

In a state where property rights are considered to be on par with the right to breathe, pipeline companies can seize private land by invoking the power of eminent domain. In what state Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) deemed “a ridiculous process,” a company merely has to assert that it’s a “common carrier” to gain the power of eminent domain.

This common carrier status, which means the company is carrying competitors’ products as well as its own to serve the public good, grants companies the right to take land without getting landowners’ consent. Oliveira’s House Bill 3547 attempts to set up a process to ensure companies claiming the status are actually common carriers. The House Business and Industry Committee discussed the bill last night.

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Keystone XL Protests Rage On in East Texas

In early October, I met a group of environmental activists who were camping in trees 80 feet above the ground near Winnsboro, hoping to prevent the Keystone XL pipeline’s construction in East Texas. Keystone XL would bring oil from the tar sands of Canada to refineries in Texas and, in the protestors’ view, unleash massive environmental destruction. Local landowners have joined in protesting against TransCanada, the corporation building the pipeline. TransCanada has angered landowners by seizing land in the pipeline’s path.

Two months later, the battle over Keystone XL rages on. Construction began on the southern portion of the pipeline in August, drawing a fresh round of protests. But U.S. State Department approval is needed to complete construction across the international border.

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