Face Challenges Confidently

188 Americo Energy Res., L.L.C. v. Moore

Friday, September 4th, 2015

Richard F. Brown

The following is not a legal opinion. You should consult your attorney if the case may be of significance to you.

Americo Energy Resources, L.L.C. v. Moore, No. 13-08-0097-CV, 2008 WL 3984169 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi Aug. 29, 2008, no pet.), holds that transporting oil or gas through an unauthorized pipeline is a continuing trespass, which may be remedied by an order to remove the pipeline.  A simplified sketch illustrates the facts:

The pipeline company acquired pipeline #1 in 1930 and pipeline #2 in 1992. After a leak was discovered in pipeline #1 in 2006, the pipeline company began constructing a new “shortcut” pipeline to the compressor station. When the landowner discovered that pipeline #3 was under construction, the landowner denied the pipeline company access to the property.

On motion for summary judgment, the landowner provided evidence in the form of affidavits to the effect that there was no easement and no oil and gas lease applicable to the property at the location of pipeline #3. Based on this evidence, the court concluded that the landowner had established the essential elements for trespass to land. Because the pipeline company failed to file any controverting affidavits, the trial court granted partial summary judgment for the landowner and ordered the pipeline company to remove pipeline #3.

The pipeline company argued on appeal that because the trespass was temporary, the landowner was only entitled to monetary damages. The court disagreed, holding that an additional trespass occurs each time oil or gas is transported using the shortcut pipeline, “An injunction is the proper remedy to restrain repeated or continuing trespasses where the remedy at law is inadequate because of the nature of the injury, or the multiplicity of actions necessary to obtain redress.” The pipeline company did not show that the landowner had another remedy at law to compensate for the seizure of the land. For example, the court noted that the pipeline company did not establish that it was a public utility vested with the right to exercise eminent domain in exchange for just compensation.

The significance of the case is the holding that ordinarily a pipeline company, which is not a public utility, can be forced to remove a pipeline constructed without an easement.