Keystone Kops: During Pipeline Protest, Texas Woman Arrested For Trespassing — On Her Own Property!

By Jessica Goad

The recent protests against the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline have reached a new height in Texas.  On Thursday, Eleanor Fairchild, a 78-year old great-grandmother, was arrested for trespassing after she stood in the path of bulldozers and machinery on her 300-acre ranch outside of Winnsboro, Texas that were tearing down trees to make the way for pipeline construction.

Fairchild, who was joined in her civil disobedience by actress and activist Darryl Hannah, explained her actions in a video saying:

Get off my land.  Period.  I don’t want tar sands anywhere in the United States. I am mad.  This land is my land. It’s been our land since ’83, our home is on it.  They are going to destroy the woods, and also they could destroy the springs.  It’s devastating, but it also is not very good to have tar sands anywhere in the United States.  This is not just about my land, it’s about all of our country.  It needs to be stopped.

Watch it:


At issue is the power of eminent domain, which allows the government to seize (for fair compensation) private property without the consent of the owner for projects considered to be for the public use or benefit.  Steve Mufson of the Washington Post reported earlier this summer that:

The vast majority of landowners have signed agreements with TransCanada, the pipeline owner. But where necessary, the Calgary, Alberta-based company is busy going to state courts to exercise eminent domain and lining up rights to cross properties throughout the Great Plains

While eminent domain and the laws and statutes surrounding it are complicated, the Keystone XL situation in Texas has come down to whether the pipeline is a common carrier of oil (giving it the right to eminent domain) or a private project (meaning that the company would have to negotiate individually with landowners).  Just recently, a judge ruled in favor of TransCanada and granted it eminent domain.  As Fairchild refused to sell any of her land to TransCanada and did not sign any contracts, the company was able to use eminent domain and legally have her arrested for trespassing on her own land.

The Washington Post described TransCanada’s general attitude towards landowners fighting pipeline by quoting one of the company’s lawyers who said:

We are not going to have one landowner hold up a multibillion-dollar project that is going to be for the benefit of the public.

The Keystone XL pipeline consists of three legs.  The northern and most well-known portion runs from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, and it remains under additional review by the U.S. Department of State because landowners in Nebraska raised serious concerns about its impacts on the Ogallala Aquifer.  Construction on the southernmost leg began in August (President Obama directed his administration to “make this project a priority” in March), and a middle leg that is already online runs from Steele City to Cushing.

In addition to Fairchild and Hannah’s arrests, currently a handful of protestors are camped out in a tree house in the path of the pipeline construction.  And protestors have been arrested after chaining themselves to heavy machinery over the last few weeks.

Jessica is the Manager of Research and Outreach for the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

23 Responses to Keystone Kops: During Pipeline Protest, Texas Woman Arrested For Trespassing — On Her Own Property!

  1. Lionel A says:

    So much for ‘Land of the Free’, that national anthem needs a re-write.

  2. fj says:

    Terribly curious how all those small government folks rationalize this.

  3. Chris says:

    Couldn’t they just go around?

  4. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks to Daryl Hanna, who has been a great environmental warrior for a long time.

  5. Cynthia says:

    They don’t bother about rationalizing anymore, fj; they just do what they want and say, “citizines be damned.” Democracy is gone!

  6. Steve Lounsbury says:

    When the Koch Brothers and their ilk are through with the American People all private/public lands will be in the hands of the 1%.

  7. “We are not going to have one landowner hold up a multibillion-dollar project that is going to be for the benefit of the public.”
    This project will not be for the benefit of the public. It will be for the benefit of Trans Canada and whatever oil company(ies) that refine the oil and sell the end product to whom ever in what ever country they want.

  8. Scott says:

    Jesus Christ. This is simple. The pipeline is a PRIVATE pipeline and in now way represents public property. This is a cut and dry situation. This private consortium is railroading private property owners and the pipeline WILL leak. That is a fact. Guess who gets to pick up the tab when it leaks and destroys a wetland or an aquifer?

    You know the answer.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I always thought that it was ‘The Land of the Fee’.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Small Government for social welfare, public health and a decent society. Big Government for crushing Thought Crime, punishing interference in the prerogatives of our rich masters, and for the global under-class.

  11. thedoctor says:

    The fact of the matter, as a matter of local law and global law, she does not “own” the land, as she does not have alloidal title. The owner of the property is a corporation which has the corporation of the US as a holding company. she pays “rent” in the form of “tax” which goes to the owner, through the landlord – the government. Fine, that’s the fact. she does not own the land.

    Why can’t they just say this? Why do they have to say “common good” as if a Costco in the area of 100 homes would be for the common good too? Why the endless lies, just state the actual fact on the papers = you do not own your land, you lease it, you do own the house if the bank does not and can take that with you if you want; but the land is not yours, as you are the tenant and we can, and will take it when we want too, for whatever reason if the real owner agrees to our terms.

    Be honest, it is the global law, stop lying when the law is clear, use the real law, not the fake law which seems to be there to cover up the real law for some reason.

  12. MorinMoss says:

    That’s absolutely what they CAN NOT and CAN NEVER say anymore than Santorum could say what he REALLY thought about the President, calling him instead a “government negotiator”, whatever that means.

    The minute they say the truth is the moment that the house of cards the corporatists have built as a shield coming tumbling down.

    So long as they don’t blatantly destroy that illusion, they can keep on pillaging the common wealth.

  13. Chris Winter says:

    “Just recently, a judge ruled in favor of TransCanada and granted it eminent domain.”

    I wonder who that judge was. Of course, in Texas, they grant eminent domain for sports stadiums, so this is no big surprise.

    But it’s curious how things change. Back when I was at Bucknell in the 1960s, Interstate 80 was a-building — except for one segment right near my home in New Jersey. AIUI, one property owner refused to sell.

    It would have been a sweet commute. Alas, that segment of I80 was never completed while I was at that university, forcing me to use a crowded, built-up highway through Hacketstown and get on I80 at the Delaware Water Gap.

  14. BBHY says:

    Not only is a private company, but it is a foreign private company. Since when do we grant eminent domain rights to foreign private companies?

  15. B-Man says:

    Ahhhh the American Dream , Too bad you have to be asleep to Live it …

  16. Chris Winter says:

    I must apologize to the people of Hackettstown for misspelling the name of their town (pop. 9,724.)

  17. Citizen13 says:

    Yes, that really is the icing on the cake- Our Corporate Overlords are now not even American in NAME. The largest of them have ceased being American in any other respect, a long time ago…

    “For the Public Benefit” my ass. There is not one shred of evidence to support that contention. I smell judicial corruption.

  18. Citizen13 says:

    Yes, that seems to be the crux of the judicial biscuit, isn’t it? Seeing as there is not one shred of evidence of its “public benefit”, that has not been completely discredited over the past couple of years, I must question the integrity of the judge. And, it wouldn’t be the first time an oil company has purchased the best judicial review money can buy…

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I read a good article ( for a change) today in ‘The Guardian’, all about how the Kochtopus is buying up judges, by writing big cheques for election campaigns to get far, far Right lunatics elected to the judiciary. The ‘judges’ then sit in ‘judgment’ on the very business interests who paid for their elevation. I mean, I knew your country was a world leader in elite kakistocracy and the perversion of the concept of ‘democracy’ to, instead, mean plutocracy, but this is a real advance down the really existing ‘Road to Serfdom’.

  20. Rorschach says:

    Cannot wait for the day where everyone gets sick and tired of this bullsh!t…

  21. Candyco2 says:

    I was also taken for a spring practice stadium (Boston Red Sox) along with one hundred and ten homes. An extreme railroading process. Like Eleanor Fairchild, who owns all of this land that they are putting the pipes on, claims that there was abuse and bullying, I also went through abuse, bullying, strong arm tactics, harassment,threats, intimidation and force…which seems to be the underlying problem of MANY eminent domain cases these days. Abuse of power and tyranny has seemed to work its way into eminent domain, not to mention judges who are in favor of eminent domain…and who possibly get some “kickback $$$$” from the state…big brother, of which the judge gets their paychecks. :-)
    Chris Winter..if you are reading this, my boyfriend attended and graduated from Bucknell University in the sixties…Robert Orsi.

  22. Linda Herring says:

    Pick up what tab? When the pipeline leaks, there is no way the damage can be fixed. The damage is already done and the water is toxic. What will money do for that?

  23. Citizen14 says:

    The fallacy is in the reporting from the washington post.

    “The Washington Post described TransCanada’s general attitude towards landowners fighting pipeline by quoting one of the company’s lawyers who said:”

    Washington post has a bias. All media outlets do, but this is their perspective of what the lawyers said, not what the lawyers said.

    Now the post is being quoted for what they interpret the lawyers to have said. … Silly. This is rubbish.

    Additionally, the lady was given a large sum of money, she accepted. Now has buyers remorse. It looks better on paper to say the government took her land. They didn’t. She bought in to the man. Sheesh. Read the article closely. As mentioned, this is land for a private company. Eminent domain doesn’t work this way. If it doesn’t sound right, or sounds awful, or fishy.. It probably isn’t right.