Judge halts pipeline work on Nacogdoches Co. private property

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A Texas court has ordered TransCanada to temporarily halt work on a private property where it is constructing part of an oil pipeline designed to carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

Texas County Court at Law Judge Jack Sinz signed a temporary restraining order and injunction Friday. The injunction went into effect Tuesday after Michael Bishop, the landowner, posted bond. TransCanada says this will not delay its project.

Bishop argued the Canadian company defrauded him by taking his land in Nacogdoches County for a pipeline it said would carry crude oil. He argues that tar sands oil is not crude oil and that the company's claims that it is are fraudulent.

Initially, the judge said there's sufficient cause to halt the project until a hearing scheduled for Dec. 19. However, TransCanada has requested an earlier hearing. Now, the matter will be heard Thursday, Dec. 13 at 9 a.m. The company has filed a motion to dismiss the restraining order.

"I didn't start this fight, but by God I'm gonna finish it," Bishop said.

Last month, Bishop accepted a cash payment with TransCanada, rather than fight eminent domain laws. Then the retired Marine promptly prepared the civil lawsuit.

"The cause of action is fraud on the part of TransCanada," he said.

The suit's argument is TransCanada claims it will be transporting crude oil, but should the Keystone pipeline be approved, it plans to carry the thicker and more controversial tarsands oil. Bishop wants a jury trial.

"I have overwhelming evidence that these people have defrauded the American public and Texas landowners," he said.

Sinz ruled there's sufficient cause to halt the project until a hearing.

The injunction went into effect today when Bishop posted a one thousand dollar bond at the county clerk's office. When the news spread, the judge's phone began to ring.

"I have received a call from Los Angeles," said Lisa Johnson, a county-court-at-law administrator. "I received a phone call from an Austin environmentalist and just mentioning she was pleased to know the judge was fair."

It's the kind of attention Bishop wants for his battle. He's also suing the Texas Railroad Commission for issuing the permits in the first place.

"For not performing their non-discretionary, ministerial duty to protect the groundwater and doing a proper investigation prior to issuing a pipeline permit in that state," Bishop said.

The chemist is representing himself, but has the full support of organized efforts to stop TransCanada not just on Bishop's 20 acres, but elsewhere across the United States.

Copyright 2012 KTRE. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.