Judge questions jurisdiction in pipeline lawsuit

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A legal battle between a Nacogdoches County property owner and TransCanada continued Wednesday. plaintiff Mike Bishop and TransCanada attorney James Freeman were poised and ready to present their arguments for and against a permanent injunction. If granted it, could block pipeline construction on Bishop's land near Douglass.

However, before arguments began, they were both called into County Court-at-Law Judge Jack Sinz's chambers.

After a short consultation, Sinz announced he's uncertain if a question of easement falls under his jurisdiction, and that it may be a question for district court.  He asked lawyers on both sides to research the matter. If they're in agreement, the case will be moved to the higher court. If not, discussion will resume.

"It's not an eminent domain proceeding," David Dodson, a spokesman for TransCanada, said. "It's a breach of contract is what's left."

Freeman said that he is going to try to file something by the first week in January.

"The judge is very cautious," Bishop said. "Like he said, if he rules in my favor, then TransCanada's attorney is going to go to district court and file an appeal based on some nit-picky loophole in the law, and he wants to cover all those loopholes with a brief from each side."

Bishop's petition calls for the negation of TransCanada's existing right-of-way contract. Bishop says the company lied, and that tar sands oil is not crude. TransCanada insists it is.

"I know the difference between oil and bitumen," Arnold Nass, an opponent of the pipeline, said. They are not the same."

The order was initiated by the judge, but some pipeline opponents call it a delay tactic.

"I think it's in TransCanada's interest to string this out as long as possible," the Rev. Kyle Childress, another pipeline opponent, said.

Bishop is disappointed, but has no intentions of giving up the fight.

"We say here in East Texas, 'you turn on the lights, the roaches run,'" Bishop said. "Nobody wants to hear the truth."

The landowner is currently representing himself, but is now seeking the assistance of an attorney.

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