Texas Rep. Leighton Schubert – Eminent Domain Threat

High Speed Project Investors Threatened
To Seize Family Farms In Texas

BallotPedia
Verbatim Fact Check
May 10, 2017

Texas Central Railroad and Infrastructure, Inc. (TCRI) and its affiliates are pursuing development of a high-speed “bullet train” between Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston. Five Texas state senators and ten state representatives have filed more than 20 bills to regulate high-speed rail projects.

According to state Representative Leighton Schubert (R-District 13), “This group of foreign investors is threatening to seize family farms, physically divide the state of Texas, and have a gravely detrimental impact on the citizens I represent.”

Is Schubert correct that project investors threatened to seize family farms?

Yes.

Company officials have repeatedly asserted that TCRI has legal authority to exercise the powers of eminent domain. That would allow the company to survey private property without the owner’s permission, and to forcibly acquire the property for its project upon payment to owners for its “fair market value.” Whether TCRI actually does have the legal authority to exercise such powers is a matter of dispute.

Background

As currently proposed, the new rail line would travel the 240 miles between Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston in 90 minutes at speeds of 205 miles per hour. Texas Central is planning to use train technology developed by the Central Japan Railway Co., which will also provide “long-term and continuous technical support” to the project, according to company officials.

Construction of the rail line depends, in part, on the outcome of a federal environmental impact study, which is currently underway. It also hinges on the company’s ability to obtain access to—or acquire outright—the land over which the train would travel, as well as land for stations and maintenance facilities.

Officials of Texas Central say the company is not planning to seek state or local funds for the project, although they have also said they will “explore all forms of capital available,” including federal loan programs. Capital costs for the project have been estimated to be between $10 billion and $12 billion, although critics have questioned the accuracy of this estimate as too low.

Land Acquisition

Texas Central officials have stated that the company intends to build the rail line along existing roadways, rail lines and public utility easements to minimize the impact on private landowners.

However, company officials have also asserted that Texas Central is authorized under state law to exercise the powers of eminent domain. In the face of public opposition, however, they have also pledged to do so only “as a last resort.”

According to legal documents, Texas Central sought written permission from landowners to enter public property “to conduct the examination and surveying activities needed to determine the most advantageous route for its train.”

After a number of landowners denied permission, Texas Central petitioned the Harris County District Court for a temporary injunction “that can leave no doubt of its right to enter Defendants’ property to conduct examinations and surveys.”

The Texas Central petition stated: “TCRI is vested with the right of eminent domain under Sections 131.012 and 112.053 of the Texas Transportation Code.”

Section 131.012 – grants the power of eminent domain to “a corporation chartered for the purpose of … operating lines of electric railway between municipalities.”

Section 112.053  – authorizes a railroad company to “acquire property by condemnation” if that company and the landowner cannot agree on a purchase price, and if the land is needed for specified purposes, such as railroad incorporation or right-of-way. (To “acquire property by condemnation” refers to the use of eminent domain.)

The Texas Central petition also stated: “Aside from the express statutory right, Texas courts have conclusively established that entities vested with the power of eminent domain, such as TCRI, have the right to enter onto private property in order to conduct examinations and surveys.”

Harris County District Judge Joseph “Tad” Halbach denied TCRI’s motion for summary judgement. Judge Halbach did not provide an explanation for his decision.

Concurrent with its petition to the District Court, the company requested a “clarifying order” from the state Surface Transportation Board (STB) of its eminent domain authority.
As stated in the petition, “Texas Central has already begun negotiating with numerous landowners along its proposed right-of-way.

If some of those negotiations reach an impasse, Texas Central plans to use its statutory eminent domain powers to establish the properties’ condemnation value.” The STB concluded that Texas Central did not require legal clarification from the STB and denied the petition as “moot.”

Conclusion

As plans move forward for development of a high-speed rail line in Texas, state legislators have filed more than 20 bills to regulate such projects.

State Representative Leighton Schubert (R-District 13) claimed of developer Texas Central, “This group of foreign investors is threatening to seize family farms, physically divide the state of Texas, and have a gravely detrimental impact on the citizens I represent.”

Texas Central has repeatedly claimed authority to exercise the powers of eminent domain to forcibly obtain the private property needed for its proposed line.

Source

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First – The subject of eminent domain absolutely makes the hair on my arms stand to attention.  It makes the very idea of personal rights and property nearly laughable. When a property owner has poured money, time, effort, and vision into their home property whether it is a simple dwelling or an elaborate property–this is against everything the country was founded on. 

Second – Land is not a renewable resource and everything that is done impacts the environment and all who abide there. It is time that we take a serious look at how to better utilize what has already been claimed for transportation and decide how it can impact the people and the areas with less rather than more strong-arm tactics.

Third – Is there any real justification for faster train service? What purpose does the expenditure even serve? Trains need to maintain their current rail systems better instead of adding more lines. There are already miles of unused tracks around the country. Where there is no longer any use, shouldn’t the railways be forced to remove the lines and return the property to states? What about utilizing those (fter rail removal) for  pedestrian, horse, and two or four wheel off-road travel–seems to me this would be a much better use and keep the highways and property owners from having to deal with these people crossing their property.

Fourth – IF in fact a faster, more modern service is needed then make it an ELEVATED rail over the top of current tracks not claim more land and place property owners in jeopardy. Wouldn’t the advantages of that outweigh the use of eminent domain?

Fifth – IF foreign investors are looking to make money in our country, then they should be held to the same or stricter standards no different from those their country utilizes. Meaning, if their country does not allow US foreign investors the same latitudes in their country, then why should we allow them access here. If foreign investors provide funds then there should be a better trade agreement between their country and ours.

Sixth – Seems to me national security concerns should trump either high-speed or industry. No matter who the investor is, our country and national safety first.

I am for having job opportunities and prosperity for OUR PEOPLE and even for consultation and expertise from our ally nations but please use common sense NOT eminent domain.

–Uriel–

About Uriel

Retired educator and constitutionalist
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10 Responses to Texas Rep. Leighton Schubert – Eminent Domain Threat

  1. skip says:

    Hell, They can’t keep Amtrac on the rails at 50mph. No way in the world you could get me on that POS, IF IT IS EVERY BUILT. $10 billion and $12 billion,HA HA IF IT IS FINISHED UNDER 40-50 BILLION TAX PAYERS WILL BE LUCKY.

    • Uriel says:

      Lol Skip. I’m with you. Life passes too fast as it is and odds are “despite” their assurances the taxpayers would get the shaft

  2. SafeSpace says:

    Two questions come to mind. First, what is the real motivation behind this project? Is this another “green” scam, aimed at curtailing the use of evil private automobiles in order to cut emissions and “save the planet”? If so, this project needs to be deep-sixed.

    Second, what is the nationality of the investors who will control the physical right-of-way? I see a national security risk if potentially-unfriendly types are sold title to a wide and strategic swath of Texas. I don’t hear anyone proposing we sell the Golden Gate Bridge, or I-95, to foreigners because “we need the money for infrastructure”. This TX rail plan sounds like it fits a similar pattern.

    • Uriel says:

      The state of Texas already has many outside people and investors owning stuff at close to 100% in a few cases. This is a real NS concern. As to motivation I tend to agree. That thruway is very heavily trafficked already though so locals might appreciate less.

  3. Popular Front says:

    Dangerous talk. I for one would not want to piss off a lot of well armed Texans just for the sake of a railroad. History repeating itself, the reincarnation of some 19th century railroad robber barons perhaps?

  4. comcast536 says:

    I agree with everyones comments. So I agree with Schubert and I’m also glad that Texas has a representative that is standing by the People of Texas and their right to resist.

  5. vonMesser says:

    The whole purpose behind (IMHO) mass transportation is to move people out of private modes of transportation and force them to rely on government and government controlled entities, thus giving the government control over where you go and when you go there.

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