header image

[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Clear
Clear
52°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
November 28
1950 - CalArts grad Ed Harris ("A Beautiful Mind," "Apollo 13," "Westworld") born in New Jersey [link]
Ed Harris


By Victoria Prieskop, Courthouse News

PASADENA — The Ninth Circuit revived counterclaims Tuesday by Union Pacific Railroad, whose power to lease land under 1,800 miles of its right of way for a petroleum pipeline is being challenged in multiple class actions.

A series of class action lawsuits in the past three years claim that, though right-of-way laws allow a railroad to run a line across government land or by private landowner grant, the easements do not allow railroads to use land under the tracks except for purposes directly related to the railroad.

Disputes over railroad use of public and private lands date back to the 1850s, when Congress gave enormous tracts of land to rail companies to encourage them to build transcontinental railroads. The corruption involved created one of the nation’s first public groundswells against the power of large corporations.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act into law in July 1862. More congressional rail acts followed, in 1871, 1875 and thereafter. Nearly a century of lawsuits followed, between landowners, states, the federal government and the railroads.

Citing decades of court rulings and federal legislation, the current lawsuits claim that the companies granted and accepted subsurface easements they did not own when they leased land under rail lines for a pipeline carrying petroleum across six states.

But the Ninth Circuit found Tuesday that the Central District of California erred in dismissing Union Pacific’s counterclaims and denying a request to amend, to add facts supporting the contention that the pipeline served a railroad purpose.

U.S. District Judge Frederic Block, sitting on the three-person panel by designation from the Eastern District of New York, wrote the unanimous opinion. U.S. Circuit Judges Stephen Reinhardt and Jacqueline H. Nguyen concurred.

The phrase “railroad purpose” is central to both lawsuits against Union Pacific and in the rulings against the railroad at issue here. It stems from a 1903 Supreme Court ruling which found that “the substantial consideration inducing the grant was the perpetual use of the land for the legitimate purposes of the railroad, just as though the land had been conveyed in terms to have and to hold the same so long as it was used for the railroad right of way.”

But the series of acts passed from 1862 to 1871 that created charters for construction of transcontinental railways, and the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875 did not limit railroad easements to use for “railroad purposes.”

The panel found that, while a 1957 case established that railroads are not permitted to extract oil or minerals from beneath their rights-of-way, a proviso in one of original acts “prevents the grantee from extracting mineral resources, not from using the subsurface for any other purpose.”

“This is in keeping with the common law’s distinction between an ordinary easement (‘a nonpossessory right to enter and use land’) and a profit à prendre (‘an easement that confers the right to enter and remove timber, minerals, oil, gas, game, or other substances,’)” the ruling states.

Therefore, the panel ruled that a railroad easement “entitles Union Pacific to lease the subsurface as well as the surface of its right of way to SFPP as long as it continues to use the right of way to operate a railroad, regardless of whether the pipeline itself serves a ‘railroad purpose.’”

In clearing the way for amendment of the counterclaims, Block wrote: “Union Pacific’s proposed amendment alleges that the pipeline serves a railroad purpose ‘because Union Pacific uses capacity on the pipeline to transport millions of gallons of fuel a year, purchased directly by Union Pacific from third-party refineries, via dedicated facilities to private terminals on the railroad line that Union Pacific owns.’

“It alleges that it ‘uses this fuel to power its locomotives,’ and that the use of fuel from the pipeline ‘reduce[s] core railroad operating costs by millions of dollars a year,’” the ruling continues. “We hold that the district court should have granted leave to amend because that allegation, if proven, is sufficient to establish a prima facie case that the pipeline serves a railroad purpose.”

The relevant distinction, Block added, “is not between the ‘subsurface; and the ‘surface,’ but between the ‘mineral estate’ and the ‘surface estate,’ which includes all of the subsurface except mineral estate.”

“In both Union Pacific and Great Northern, the issue was whether the railroad had the right to extract resources from the mineral estate,” Block continued. “The Supreme Court’s negative answer does not foreclose any other use of the subsurface from being a railroad purpose.”

The panel reversed and remanded with instructions to grant leave to amend.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

0 Comments

You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment


SCV NewsBreak
LOCAL NEWS HEADLINES
Friday, Nov 27, 2020
Friday COVID-19 Roundup: SCV Sees 106 New Cases; Countywide Surge Prompts More Restrictions
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Friday reported 24 new deaths and 4,544 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 countywide, as officials called for tightened safety measures set to take effect on Monday.
Friday, Nov 27, 2020
L.A. County to Tighten Safety Measures Monday as COVID-19 Surges
As new COVID-19 cases remain at alarming levels and the number of people hospitalized continues to increase, a temporary Los Angeles County Health Officer Order will be issued to require additional safety measures across sectors.
Friday, Nov 27, 2020
SCV Businesses Prepare for Small Business Saturday 2020
Shoppers are being invited to join small businesses across the Santa Clarita Valley in participating in Small Business Saturday 2020 this weekend.
Keep Up With Our Facebook

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1950 - CalArts grad Ed Harris ("A Beautiful Mind," "Apollo 13," "Westworld") born in New Jersey [link]
Ed Harris
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Friday reported 24 new deaths and 4,544 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 countywide, as officials called for tightened safety measures set to take effect on Monday.
Friday COVID-19 Roundup: SCV Sees 106 New Cases; Countywide Surge Prompts More Restrictions
This Sunday, Nov. 29, is the last day to see the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater's virtual graphic design exhibition, Inside Out & Upside Down, showcasing CalArt posters from throughout the years.
Nov. 29: Last Chance to See Inside Out & Upside Down REDCAT Exhibition
As new COVID-19 cases remain at alarming levels and the number of people hospitalized continues to increase, a temporary Los Angeles County Health Officer Order will be issued to require additional safety measures across sectors.
L.A. County to Tighten Safety Measures Monday as COVID-19 Surges
The Valencia nonprofit Avenues Supported Living Services is seeking donations this Giving Tuesday after suffering greatly from the effects of COVID-19.
Nonprofit Avenues Supported Living Services Seeks Donations for Giving Tuesday
Musician-artist and CalArts graduate Julian Gross (Art '00) has earned a Grammy nomination in the Best Recording Package category for his art direction on "Healer," Grouplove’s latest release.
CalArts Alum Julian Gross Earns Grammy Nomination
Shoppers are being invited to join small businesses across the Santa Clarita Valley in participating in Small Business Saturday 2020 this weekend.
SCV Businesses Prepare for Small Business Saturday 2020
The Santa Clarita Valley has seen an increase in demand for COVID-19 testing, paralleling the trend in Los Angeles County and nationwide.
Demand for COVID-19 Testing Increases in SCV Amid Surge
Hundreds of local, older adults could not break bread together this year for the annual Thanksgiving feast at the Bella Vida Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, but many still showed, some even dressed up for a drive-thru version Thursday.
SCV Senior Center Drive-Thru Dishes out Thanksgiving Feast to Hundreds
1941 - Funeral for "our" Remi Nadeau, whose Canyon Country deer park became North Oaks [story]
Remi Nadeau
Zonta International’s “16 days of Activism” is held annually from Nov. 25 - Dec. 10. Since 2016, Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley has participated in the annual "Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women" campaign in collaboration with the Child and Family Center.
Zonta Club Brings Awareness to Domestic Violence
On Monday, Nov. 30, College of the Canyons will host a virtual soft opening of its Multicultural Center, which will provide safe and brave spaces for historically minoritized and marginalized groups on campus with the goal of increased diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the college’s fabric.
Nov. 30: COC Multicultural Center Virtual Soft Opening
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released the latest data on COVID-19 Thursday.
Thursday COVID-19 Roundup: 383,275 Cases Countywide, 37 New Deaths; 9,352 Total SCV Cases
Travel through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest, past the sea of twirly-swirly gum drops and into a month of non-stop fun and entertainment with the city of Santa Clarita’s virtual events in December.
City Releases Holiday Virtual Events Line-Up
Power shutoffs commenced Thanksgiving Day in the Santa Clarita Valley, with Southern California Edison customers affected near the Agua Dulce area.
Agua Dulce Community Affected by SoCal Edison Power Shutoffs
While local health care officials have been asking for the community’s help in creating personal protective equipment since the onset of the pandemic, now the message is simpler: Abide by public health guidelines.
COVID-19 Surge Impacting Henry Mayo
Logix Federal Credit Union is supporting College of the Canyons Foundation’s Student Resource & Success Fund with its Double Your Dollars campaign.
Logix Encouraging Community to Take Part in COC’s  Double Your Dollars Campaign
1916 - A score of Wobblies bust up Newhall Jail after commandeering SP freight train [story]
Santa Clarita officials announced plans to file an amicus brief in support of an ongoing lawsuit to block Los Angeles County’s outdoor dining ban, which went into effect the day before Thanksgiving.
‘Draconian Behavior:’ City Council to Support Suit to Block Outdoor Dining Ban
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported 49 new deaths and 4,311 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 countywide since Tuesday, including 96 new cases in the Santa Clarita Valley, as Henry Mayo on Wednesday afternoon reported its second death this week.
Wednesday COVID-19 Roundup: 2nd Death at Henry Mayo This Week; SCV Cases Total 9,230
Santa Clarita’s new Volunteer Hub at SantaClaritaVolunteers.com is a one-stop-shop that connects area nonprofit organizations and volunteers.
Need Volunteers? Want to Be One? Check City’s Volunteer Hub
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau Critical Missing Person Unit detectives are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Vlad Kravets.
Found: Vlad Kravets, Last Seen in Valencia; Detectives Sought Public’s Help
In response to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors' 3-2 vote Tuesday allowing further COVID-19-related closures to take effect Wednesday, Supervisor Kathryn Barger is calling for $10 million in federal CARES Act funding to be repurposed to aid impacted local businesses.
Barger Calls for $10M in CARES Act Funds for Businesses Hurt by COVID Restrictions
After declaring himself the winner of the 25th Congressional District or CA-25 race last week, Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, continued his less-than-1% lead over opponent Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, after a Tuesday vote count update.
Election Update: Garcia Leads by 405 Votes in CA-25 Race
%d bloggers like this: