Judge refuses Keystone hearing due to paperwork problem

AUSTIN, Texas — A federal judge declined Monday to hear testimony in a landowner’s bid to stop construction of part of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline because the property owner didn’t correctly file legal papers.

Michael Bishop’s lawsuit against the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates pipelines in Texas, challenges the agency’s certification of Keystone as a common carrier under state law. Bishop was seeking a temporary injunction to stop work on the pipeline in the eastern part of the state.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Yelenosky in Austin, the state capital, agreed with Assistant Attorney General Megan Neal’s argument that Bishop didn’t properly serve the commission with the lawsuit.

“You’ve made a mistake because the lawsuit can’t start until the entity you are suing is properly served,” Yelenosky told Bishop. “Now is the time to note the mistake and see if you can remedy it.”

Bishop separately sued Calgary-based TransCanada in East Texas, alleging they coerced him into a settlement that granted an easement across his farm near Nacogdoches, about 100 miles northeast of Houston. He claimed the pipeline’s permits are invalid because Keystone is permitted to carry only crude oil, not bitumen from Canadian tar sands.

TransCanada last week won a bid to lift a temporary court order blocking construction.

After the hearing Monday, Bishop, who is representing himself, said he will have the papers served properly. He said he was pleased the judge didn’t rule on any of the facts or other issues in the case yet.

“He was fair,” Bishop said. “It’s a setback in a sense. It doesn’t alter any of the facts.”

Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, said in an email that the state declined to comment on the hearing.

Bishop said he said he doesn’t want to represent himself, but he and groups opposed to the pipeline cannot find a lawyer to accept the case.
He said one attorney told him that his case can’t be won because “this is an oil and gas state.”

TransCanada has been battling landowners and environmental groups at sites along the southernmost leg of its 2,151-mile pipeline between western Canada and the U.S. refining industry complex on the Texas Gulf Coast.

So far, none of the legal challenges has permanently halted construction on the pipeline, which will carry liquefied bitumen obtained by heating tar sands, along with traditional crude oil produced from fields in North Dakota, Oklahoma and West Texas, Tom Zabel, a lawyer for TransCanada, said in an interview.