Recently, a Denton County couple was awarded $873,824 in their case against Crosstex Energy in a gas pipeline easement condemnation suit.
The company had originally offered Terry and Ossie Button $44,955, according to a press release from their attorney, Glenn Sodd and his firm, Dawson & Sodd, LLP.
The Fort Worth Court of Appeals upheld a jury verdict that took into account the easement Crosstex Energy, now called Enlink Midstream, took across the couple’s undeveloped land near Lantana. Damages were awarded based on the reduced market value of the land caused by the pipeline. The pipeline’s placement limited development options for the land.
The company settled with the Buttons rather than appeal the matter to the Texas Supreme Court.
For many years, Texas laws and regulations have given energy companies wide latitude in establishing “common carriers” to move their product to market, latitude not seen in many other states. In the heyday of the Barnett Shale boom, many energy companies also formed pipeline companies to use eminent domain powers against landowners.
The Texas Legislature, through SB 18 last session, attempted some reforms to the state’s eminent domain laws.
Calvin Tillman, the former mayor of Dish, has called for more meaningful reforms. In an essay for the Texas Tribune, he underscores Texas’ low score on private property rights. He calls on the legislature to look to other states, such as Florida, which do a better job with private property rights.
Pre-filing begins Nov. 10. It will be interesting to see whether the Texas Legislature continues this important path of reform.