Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd. v. Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas, LLC
(Tex. 2011)(Opinion by Justice Willett)
FULL TEXT OF OPINION [ coming soon ]
Opinions are available in pdf from the Court's website. Follow docket-number hotlink or click the case-style
hyperlink to download the pdf file.
OPINION OF THE COURT OF APPEALS BELOW: Court of Appeals
Also see: Texas Causes of Action | 2011 Texas Supreme Court Opinions | 2011 Tex Sup Ct Per Curiams
Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd. v. Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas, LLC,
No. 09-0901 (Tex. Aug. 26, 2011)(Opinion by Justice Don R. Willett)(no condemnation power by private entities)
TEXAS RICE LAND PARTNERS, LTD. AND MIKE LATTA v. DENBURY GREEN PIPELINE-TEXAS, LLC; from
Jefferson County; 9th district (09-09-00002-CV, 296 SW3d 877, 09-24-09)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and remands the case to the trial court.
Justice Willett delivered the opinion of the Court. [pdf]
The Texas Constitution safeguards private property by declaring that eminent domain can
only be exercised for “public use.” Even when the Legislature grants certain private entities “the
right and power of eminent domain,” the overarching constitutional rule controls: no taking of
property for private use. Accordingly, the Natural Resources Code requires so-called “common
carrier” pipeline companies to transport carbon dioxide “to or for the public for hire.” In other
words, a CO2 pipeline company cannot wield eminent domain to build a private pipeline.
This property-rights dispute asks whether a landowner can challenge in court the eminent domain power of a
CO2 pipeline owner that has been granted a common-carrier permit from the
Railroad Commission. The court of appeals answered no, holding that (1) a pipeline owner can
conclusively acquire the right to condemn private property by checking the right boxes on a one-page form filed
with the Railroad Commission, and (2) a landowner cannot challenge in court
whether the proposed pipeline will in fact be public rather than private. We disagree. Unadorned
assertions of public use are constitutionally insufficient. Merely registering as a common carrier
does not conclusively convey the extraordinary power of eminent domain or bar landowners from
contesting in court whether a planned pipeline meets statutory common-carrier requirements.
Nothing in Texas law leaves landowners so vulnerable to unconstitutional private takings. We
reverse the court of appeals’ judgment and remand to the district court for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
Private property is constitutionally protected, and a private enterprise cannot acquire
condemnation power merely by checking boxes on a one-page form. We reverse the court of
appeals’ judgment, and remand this case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with
Link to e-briefs: TEXAS RICE LAND PARTNERS, LTD. v. DENBURY GREEN PIPELINE-TEXAS LLC (including
briefs by several amici)