Texas landowner David Daniel said he has experienced that imbalance firsthand. He agreed to lease land to TransCanada but said he was misled about the safety of oil-sands pipelines. He has since launched a group called Stop Tarsands Oil Pipelines to highlight safety concerns arising from the high pressure and unknown chemicals used to extract energy from oil sands.
Daniel’s effort brings together environmentalists and tea partyers he said are concerned about “a foreign company seizing private property for a private project.”
The group also includes apolitical landowners such as Julia Trigg Crawford, who is pursuing legal action against TransCanada to stop the pipeline from going through her land in North Texas.
The alliance between environmentalists and landowners in Texas resembles a broad coalition of activists and farmers that recently convinced Nebraska lawmakers to reroute the pipeline away from an ecologically sensitive aquifer.
“Lifelong Republicans are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with urban tree-huggers,” Malinda Frevert, a spokeswoman for BOLD Nebraska, said of that effort.
Public support for the pipeline remains strong nationally. A recent Rasmussen report found that 56 percent of likely voters support it, while 16 percent are undecided. Industry experts say the project would create much-needed jobs, a view shared by two Texas Republicans, Reps. Louie Gohmert and Jeb Hensarling, whose districts the pipeline would pass through.
“Americans desperately need the 20,000 new jobs and energy security that the Keystone pipeline project would bring,” Hensarling said in a statement.
Rick Perry agreed, writing in a Monday Wall Street Journal op-ed that an approved pipeline “would have provided a shot in the arm for our nation’s uncertain economy.”
Support for the pipeline falls largely along party lines nationally, but Texas landowners insist the issue is not as partisan as it seems. Concerns about property and water contamination from spills raise alarms in rural Texas regardless of political leaning.
“There are so many legitimate black-and-white issues on the table that threaten our lives,” Daniel said.
Daniel’s group has been working closely with We Texans, an advocacy group run by tea partyer Medina, and the bipartisan anti-pipeline commission that recently launched. All three are lobbying state Representatives to hold hearings on the pipeline during the next state legislative session. They said they hope the state government can be swayed to take action if the federal permit goes through.
Medina said tea partyers are prepared to challenge Republican incumbents in primary elections over this issue.
T.J. Fabby is one such contender. He has made the eminent-domain issue a part of his campaign against state Rep. Jim Pitts, chairman of the state House Appropriations Committee. A spokesman for Pitts said the lawmaker doesn’t have a position on the pipeline yet but is a “big-time proponent” of private-property rights.
The Sierra Club’s Davis is counting on that.
“As of now, [state officials] have been hook, line and sinker about oil, as Texans are,” Davis said. “But they’re always worried about their tea party constituents. They don’t want to get primaried.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.