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Appeals court to hear FM pipeline case

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Denton County Probate Judge Don Windle ruled Friday that his court has jurisdiction to hear an eminent domain case between the town of Flower Mound and Mockingbird Pipeline, L.P.

Because of that ruling, the town filed an immediate appeal of Judge Windle’s decision and now the Texas Court of Appeals in Fort Worth will determine whether a natural gas pipeline company is legally authorized to condemn municipal property.

Mockingbird, an affiliate of Williams Production, filed a condemnation lawsuit against the Town of Flower Mound in January for a 30-foot natural gas pipeline easement across Fire Station No. 2 property, located at FM 1171 and Shiloh Road.

“We will continue to resist all efforts to place a natural gas pipeline across Fire Station No. Two property in western Flower Mound,” said Robert Brown, lead Flower Mound litigator.

“We understand that this will be a case of first impression by the Fort Worth Court of Appeals. We believe it eventually will have far-reaching consequences around Texas, particularly for those municipalities that do not agree with pipeline companies that want to locate and install natural gas pipelines in parks, across fire station properties, in front of city halls, and at other municipal facilities.”

Judge Windle noted in his ruling that this is a case of first impression in Texas and that there is no guidance under existing Texas law.  At the present time, town officials said that it is difficult to predict when the court of appeals will issue a ruling, but the town does not anticipate a final ruling until later this year.

Town officials said that they anticipate that Mockingbird Pipeline will attempt procedural maneuvers in the interim to gain access to the fire station property to begin construction of the natural gas pipeline; however, the town will continue to resist all such efforts.

Williams spokesman Kelly Swan said that the easement issue goes back to last May.

“If you look back at the history here, the town’s staff negotiated an agreement with us last year. We accepted their terms, including a request for a special safety valve for the fire department,” said Swan. 

“Ultimately, the agreement was stranded by virtue of a 2-2 vote by the town council, which forced us to seek another remedy.”

“To put our request in perspective, we’re talking about a narrow strip of public right-of-way where pipelines already exist. The fire station easement already contains a natural gas pipeline and a septic tank system. That’s why we chose this route. We can place our pipeline next to an existing easement, which is the best possible place. It’s good public policy. The court agreed,” said Swan.

Swan added, “Our leaseholders are eager to see this resolved. They have the right to get their natural gas into the marketplace, which is why this pipeline is needed.”

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