An oak tree estimated to have been alive before Texas became a state (1845) has been destroyed by the Gray Oak Pipeline Project. Gray Oak Pipeline is a new pipeline company that is a joint venture between Phillips 66 Partners and Andeavor and will be built and operated by Phillips 66. The pipeline will run about 850 miles from the Permian Basin to the Texas Gulf Coast and has a capacity of 900,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Gray Oak has utilized eminent domain and condemnation to assure the project goes through despite some landowners objecting to it. This tree is located in Victoria County on the Kyle Ranch near Nursery. The ranch was established in 1878 and the fifth generation of the family still lives and operates on the property.

Our family finally settled our condemnation lawsuit with Gray Oak a few days before a court hearing was to take place, but we were unsuccessful in efforts to reroute the pipeline around the tree.

Landowners’ rights are being decimated by the deep-pocketed energy companies that use eminent domain to push around the little guy. Laws need to change and greater scrutiny needs to be exercised before allowing eminent domain to be so misused for the sole purposes of corporations lining their pockets with money.

This pipe will be in the ground 50 or more years, and at today’s price of oil, it will move over $45 million a day of crude oil. Do the math. That’s a lot of money.

The landowner gets a one-time payment for damages, loses trees and land value forever and everyone else who’s associated with the pipeline from the producers to the refineries to the port terminals to the petroleum tankers are compensated for as long as that crude is flowing. And the common denominator is Phillips 66 owns a piece of it all.

Sounds like this project is for the “common good” of the energy giants and not necessarily the citizens of Texas. The process is unfair and the rights of Texas landowners are being abused.

There are two bills introduced in the Texas Legislature by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham and State Rep. DeWayne Burns of Cleburne proposing more oversight of the eminent domain process when for-profit companies are involved.

The legislation, Senate Bill 421 and House Bill 991, would mandate that companies using eminent domain have a public meeting to make sure that landowners understand the process. The bill would also stipulate protections for landowners and would penalize companies that offered owners less money than they’re owed.

Please learn more about the bill and reach out to your representatives and voice your support. Supported by the Texas Farm Bureau, the Texas Wildlife Association and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, the bill needs your support as well. Whether you own property or not, eminent domain left unchecked could someday affect your life or someone you know.

Opponents of the bill, mostly Big Oil, claim jobs and capital will be driven out of the state. We don’t think oil in the ground will be leaving Texas anytime soon, so there needs to be some give and take regarding the need for economic expansion while protecting the rights and economic livelihood of landowners. We all know that oil and gas drive the Texas economy, but it’s time these companies begin giving landowners a fair share of the ongoing revenue to compensate for the long-term loss of value and to make efforts to save things that should matter, like this historic old tree.

One thing that strikes us as ironic, maybe borderline hypocritical, is Gray Oak’s logo on their website is of a massive oak tree. Hopefully it is nowhere near a proposed pipeline.

Bill Kyle is a graduate of Texas A&M University, fifth generation of a Texas ranching family, energy consultant and licensed Texas Real Estate Broker.

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Glenn Wilson

"The legislation, Senate Bill 421 and House Bill 991, would mandate that companies using eminent domain have a public meeting to make sure that landowners understand the process. The bill would also stipulate protections for landowners and would penalize companies that offered owners less money than they’re owed." - There's nothing in this description of the bill that indicates any meaningful change to the problem, "eminent domain left unchecked". Bills like these are written to fool voters into thinking politicians of either party are looking out for their (the voters) interests, thereby generating votes, without losing the corporate "campaign contributions" that result from doing the will of their real masters.

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