By Sam Pinkston
In Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd. v. Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas, LLC, the Supreme Court of Texas addressed the ability of private pipeline companies to receive classification as common carriers from the Texas Railroad Commission, thus allowing them to exercise eminent domain powers in the construction of pipelines. Overturning a Beaumont Court of Appeals decision, the court held that a pipeline company cannot establish as a matter of law that it is a common carrier without presenting reasonable proof “demonstrating that the pipeline will indeed transport ‘to or for the public for hire’ and is not ‘limited in [its] use to the wells, stations, plants, and refineries of the owner.” Although the court sought to protect the rights of private landholders, the decision overlooks well-established principles of common carrier classification in Texas, and future application of the court’s decision promises to be problematic.
Sam Pinkston, Eminent Domain – Texas Supreme Court Requires Common Carrier Pipeline Companies to Demonstrate Reasonable Expectation of Future Public, 66 SMU L. Rev. 371 (2013)