A Texas Landowner Stands Tall in the Keystone XL Tar Sands Fight

I first met Julia Trigg Crawford on a chilly February morning in 2012, rallying a crowd of outraged Texas landowners protesting on the courthouse steps in Paris, TX. Julia was in court defending her eminent domain lawsuit against TransCanada’s planned $7 billion, 1,700 mile Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that would ship a river of tar sands crude -- as much as 830,000 barrels a day -- from the ravaged boreal forests of Alberta to the smoke-spewing petrochemical refineries of the Gulf coast.

Now two years later, after a protracted legal battle and a rash of angry demonstrations and civil disobedience actions along the pipeline route, the southern leg of the Keystone XL is complete, pumping hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude daily from Cushing, OK, to the Gulf -- straight through Julia Trigg Crawford family’s farm. This week her court case seemingly met a dead-end in the Texas Supreme Court, which decided not to review her final appeal.

Watch this video about Julia Trigg Crawford produced by Reports from the Edge.

But Julia’s spirit is undeterred. While she decides whether to ask the Texas court to reconsider one last time, Julia issued a statement that sends a clear message to TransCanada -- and to pipeline companies everywhere -- that she will not go quietly into the Texas night.

"With years invested in this fight for our land, and frankly the lands of many Texans threatened by eminent domain abuse, we are obviously disappointed our case would not be heard. We believe, as do thousands around the world who have supported us in our fight, that the issues at hand are crystal clear, and the abuses being perpetrated are undeniable. A foreign corporation, building a for-profit pipeline, promoted as but absolutely unproven as being for the public good, and simply transporting products across our state for refinement and/or export should not have the right to take a Texan's land through eminent domain."

If anything, she says, the fact that Keystone XL has gained such importance on the national political stage, becoming a focal point for environmental climate activism, has only made her more determined to fight corporations armed with hardball legal tactics and million dollar lobbying campaigns.

Julia on her family farm near Paris, TX (2012) photo: Rocky Kistner/NRDC

But Julia has a powerful lobby of her own. She says thousands of people from all over the world contributed more than $100,000 to support her expensive legal fight, mainly through her website Stand Tall with Julia. Others mailed in letters filled with cash, checks and even envelopes stuffed with coins from as far away as Japan and Germany. An old high school friend once called her out of the blue to say she was donating a $10,000 check, while another man mailed her a few crumbled bills and $10 in loose change.

"When people learn about what's going on they want to feel like they’re doing something,” Julia says. “It’s not just about my land. It's about bigger issues when a rogue corporation can go out and screw over people for their own profit.”

What’s next for Julia? She’s mulling her options. But you can bet this 6-foot Texas horse-lover will be standing tall in her boots, planning to throw the next roadblock at a land-grabbing tar sands pipeline that threatens another community. After all, fighting to protect their land and their freedom is what it's all about down in Texas, Julia says.

And that's the American way.