During the recent legislative session, which ended last week, there was a lot of talk from lawmakers about reigning in the power of pipeline companies.
In Texas pipeline builders can take land through eminent domain with no public input. Every session landowner groups try to increase oversight with little success. This year, though, they thought it might be different. After all, a planned pipeline through the Texas Hill Country had sparked a lot of opposition.
Lawmakers tried, filing bills to increase land remediation and emergency preparedness around pipelines, and to overhaul eminent domain rules. Instead, though, the only bill that passed was one friendly to pipeline companies. It increases penalties against pipeline protesters who engage in some types of civil disobedience.
“If there’s one takeaway this legislative session from the perspective of environmental and public health advocates it’s that oil and gas interests still control in Texas,” says Adrian Shelley, director of Public Citizen Texas.
That leaves pipeline opponents back where they often find themselves: seeking redress in the courts. A state district judge in Austin is right now considering whether to halt work on that Hill Country pipeline until a case filed against it goes to trial this summer.