One way TX is worse than CA

Abuse of Power book coverMarch 15, 2013

By John Seiler

On, we’ve often compared California unfavorably to Texas on taxes, regulations and general business climate.

But fairness dictates we should show where California is better than Texas. One area is the abuse of eminent domain. Eminent domain — seizing people’s property for compensation — is supposed to be used only for clear public purposes, such as to build a road or police station. It’s not supposed to be used to grab one private person’s property to benefit another private person or corporation.

Yet this abuse is common. Steven Greenhut even wrote a book about it, “Abuse of Power: How the Government Misuses Eminent Domain.”

California has been moving in the right direction. In 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown got the Legislature to abolish redevelopment agencies, which commonly seized private property to give it to wealthy developers.

Texas is going the other way in grabbing private property for the Keystone Pipeline. Conservatives and libertarians generally have supported the pipeline, decrying President Obama’s environmental objections.


But the real objection to the pipeline was described by Chris Mayer:

“Instead, it has everything to do with a foreign oil company using U.S. government power to force Americans off their land in the name of ’eminent domain.’ It has everything to do with putting a 78-year-old grandmother in jail, pepper-spraying protesters and using other bullying tactics that would make the Mafia proud.

“This pipeline would connect the oil and gas producers in Western Canada with various U.S. endpoints. There are all kinds of economic benefits for a new pipeline. You’ve probably heard about the 16,000 jobs, for instance. I’m not disputing the supposed benefits.

“What I don’t like is the eminent domain abuse. In fact, I don’t like eminent domain at all. The fact that a government can force you off your own property shows that property rights are not secure, even in the U.S….

“There have been many eminent domain actions against property owners in Texas, for example. One of the most famous is the case of the 78-year-old grandmother, Eleanor Fairchild. Police arrested her and threw her in jail for a night. Why? She was trespassing — on her own farm! A Texas court condemned the property at TransCanada’s request after she refused to sign over her property. They seized it anyway.”

In Texas, juries think: “Oil, good! Too bad about your farm, granny.”


That would be less likely to happen with a California jury. Our judicial system is way too liberal in many areas. And a California jury might rule against a big company just out of spite. But the result more likely would be the correct one: Protecting grandma’s property.

Even many conservatives and libertarians don’t understand that property rights are more important even that low taxes, limited regulations and free trade. If government can just grab your property, and dribble you an unfair minimal compensation in return, then what are the other things worth?


“There are many more such stories. All you have to do is Google ‘TransCanada Pipeline’ and ’eminent domain.’ You will find a long trail of news stories covering the struggles of property owners against the thuggish oil company and its bullying government henchmen. You’ll find the pepper-spraying protesters, threatening letters and other nastiness. And you’ll find TransCanada stealing a lot of property.

“Here is an excerpt from an article from the Austin-based Statesman:

“’The pipeline’s southern segment doesn’t require an international permit. It crosses about 800 tracts of land in Texas. According to The Associated Press, TransCanada has claimed eminent domain to condemn more than 100 of those tracts — an unusually high condemnation percentage (about 12.5%) for a pipeline project in Texas.’

“Proponents of the pipeline overlook all this.”

Well, we’re not overlooking it on If the pipeline needs to steal the property of grandmas to be built, then it shouldn’t be built.

Meanwhile, that’s a second reason why California is better than Texas. The first is always the weather.



Related Articles

Meg & Carly Sell Out

John Seiler: Meg and Carly might be rookies at politics, but they’re fast learners. They’re already selling out the positions

Shake, rattle and roll in Nor Cal

May 23, 2013 By Katy Grimes Earthquake! Tonight in Sacramento, we felt the rumblings of a 5.7 earthquake centered in

What’s left in your wallet?

Jan. 2, 2013 By Katy Grimes I hope you don’t need $1,635, because that is what the average tax increase will