Texas farmer wins entry of default in Keystone pipeline case

A Texas farmer has won an entry of default against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which failed to respond to a federal lawsuit claiming it illegally granted environmental permits to TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline.

Michael Bishop, a farmer in Douglass, about 150 miles northeast of Houston, said he will ask U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Giblin, in Lufkin, Texas, to invalidate the pipeline’s permits and order the Army Corps to conduct public hearings that it skipped before issuing water-crossing permits to Keystone, which will transport Canadian tar-sands crude to refineries on the Texas Gulf coast.

“Tomorrow I’m going to ask the judge for everything I had in my original petition,” Bishop said in a phone interview. “I’m going to ask him to revoke the permit and effectively shut this pipeline down until they comply with the law.”

Bishop is one of the last Texas landowners still battling Calgary-based TransCanada, Keystone’s parent, in court over the company’s use of eminent domain laws to install the pipeline against the property owners’ wishes. The company has said construction on the southern leg of the pipeline is largely complete in Texas and Oklahoma.

“Public hearings should’ve been held in accordance with the law,” Bishop said in his original petition, filed in April. He claims the agency “yielded to political pressure and expedited the permit” in violation of federal environmental regulations.

Keystone XL’s northern leg has yet to obtain permission from U.S. President Barack Obama to cross the Canadian border, and construction on that stage of the 2,151-mile line hasn’t begun.

Gretchen Krueger, a TransCanada spokeswoman, said the company hasn’t had a chance to review the document and had no immediate comment. The company isn’t a formal party to the lawsuit.