Texas’ leaders extol the sanctity of private property while turning a blind eye to a system that routinely lets private pipeline companies condemn the private lands of hundreds of people. This is particularly delicate for the three Texas Railroad Commissioners, whose office rubber stamps minimalist “T-4” applications granting pipeline companies powers of eminent domain. This may explain why the commission falsely disavowed responsibility for two dicey pipeline projects in West Texas for the better part of a year, seeking to shift responsibility to the Obama administration.
Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), a billionaire-led company in Dallas, has teamed up with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú to build two 42-inch pipelines stretching 336 miles across the lands of hundreds of private landowners in West Texas. Awkwardly, the three current Railroad Commissioners have taken almost $225,000 from ETP’s PAC and executives since 2010.
Something else about these projects is perhaps even more awkward for the Railroad Commissioners and their xenophobic Republican Primary base. Granting a private company power to condemn private land is rationalized by claims—however perfunctory—that the pipeline serves a common public interest. Yet the primary purpose of these ETP pipelines is to supply gas to Mexico’s state-owned electricity company. What’s the best way to explain to ranchers—or the Come-and-Take-It wing of the Tea Party—that you’re condemning private Texas lands on behalf of a Mexican government company?
“You go to talking about condemning something by eminent domain, you’ll get shot in this part of the country,” Alpine rancher Mary Luedeke told the San Antonio Express-News about the project. “Mexico can turn blue as far as I’m concerned if they think they can condemn my land.”