Has a right-of-way agent approached you about entry onto your land in connection with the Matterhorn Express Pipeline Project? If you refused entry, have you been threatened with a TRO or Temporary Restraining Order? In this video, Landowner Condemnation Rights Attorney Philip Hundl talks about Temporary Right of Access Agreements and Temporary Restraining Orders or TROs.
If you would like experienced legal help in navigating the condemnation process, call or text 800-929-1725 for an appointment. Our appointments can be in person, online or by phone. We have offices in Fort Bend County, Wharton County and Matagorda County.
Summary of TROs and the Matterhorn Express Pipeline Project
Hi, I’m Philip Hundl. I want to talk to you today about the Matterhorn Express Pipeline Project. It’s a pipeline project that is in its initial stages right now in Texas. It covers quite a few counties — Austin, Burnet, Concho, Fort Bend, Irion, Lampasas, Lee, McCulloch, Reagan, San Saba, Tom Green, Upton, Waller, Washington, and Williamson County.
It is not exactly in Wharton County, even though there’s an East Bernard lateral. The main pipeline is a large 42-inch line, and then some other laterals are 30 inches and 36 inches.
Why You May Have Been Served with a TRO or Temporary Restraining Order
Today I want to talk to those who have been served with a temporary restraining order or the right of way agent has mentioned a temporary restraining order. We have talked about the different phases or steps in a condemnation or eminent domain project. Right now, they’re in the early stages.
Before the final offers go out to the landowners, these pipeline companies, Matterhorn or WhiteWater, want to survey properties along their proposed route. So you have been contacted by the right of way agents. A firm called Norfleet has been out there contacting landowners about its desire to have a right of way across your property.
That starts with a desire to go out on your property and do different surveys. It’s a civil engineering survey, number one, but they do soil testing, an assessment of the environment, assess the presence of endangered seeds or species, and do a wetlands evaluation.
So you may have been contacted and asked for survey access. You might have verbally said okay or signed whatever form they provided you. However, I hope you’ve become more informed by watching some of my videos. I hope you’ve reached out to attorneys familiar with condemnation proceedings and asked them to help you with this early stage. With the advice of an attorney, you might be allowing temporary access but limited temporary access.
Or perhaps you told Matterhorn or the right-of-way agents that you’re not interested in the pipeline and don’t want them on your property. If that happened, you’ve probably been served with something like this. I’ve redacted the landowner’s name and any information about the landowner from these documents. But this is a very typical document that the lawyers for Matterhorn are doing right now.
Two law firms are representing Matterhorn in this. There is Ross Molina Oliveros out of San Antonio, and they’ve got most of the Western counties on this line. The law firm handling some Eastern counties is Zable Freeman from Houston. These two law firms almost exclusively handle condemnation cases for condemnors. So they’re very familiar with condemnation, and this is what they do.
So the pipeline company needs access to evaluate properties that they think they will want to use for their route. If the landowner doesn’t give them access, they’ll get their lawyers to file this petition and apply for a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief.
They file a petitioner lawsuit expressly limited to getting access to your property. They present a temporary restraining order to the judge ex-parte, which means just on their own, not including you. The suit with supporting affidavits asks the judge to enjoin you or restrain you from interfering with Matterhorn and their agents from accessing and entering your property. So the temporary restraining order by the judge is saying you have to let them on your property.
What’s the Temporary Injunction Hearing
And also, in that temporary restraining order, the TRO, there will be some things included. And those things are a date for a temporary injunction hearing. That hearing is your chance to go in front of the court and tell the court your side of the story on why you don’t think they should have access to your property. It also sets a bond amount. So let’s unpack all that.
The court may or may not sign a temporary restraining order. It will set a hearing date. When you get these papers, you may also see a date of a hearing on another formal piece of paper called a precept. That document will say you need to be in court on May 12th or something like that. That’s an important date because there most likely will be a hearing. So, the only reason I say I’m not sure there’ll be a hearing is that sometimes those dates get reset or continued.
If there’s a hearing on their request for a temporary injunction, basically to extend the temporary restraining order’s effects, you should be at the hearing. You should also be represented by an attorney at that hearing.
You Should Talk with a Lawyer if You’re Served with a TRO
Please get in touch with an attorney who handles condemnation cases for landowners. Send the attorney a copy of this temporary restraining order so that the attorney can review it with you and confirm the date with the court. If you decide to hire that attorney, the attorney can reach out to the attorneys at the firm that filed this petition and see if a limited temporary access agreement can be reached. That’s a practical matter to allow them limited access that will be more favorable to you. Hopefully, that temporary access agreement will provide for your notification when they’re going to come on the property, a limit to the time they can be on the property, and a limited access period.
Many things can be gained by reaching out to an attorney that can help you better understand what you’ve been served with, the papers you’ve been served with, and the hearing that’s coming up. It’s also to your advantage to agree to a limited temporary access agreement with the pipeline company.
Hope this has been helpful. I’m getting lots of calls from landowners who are being served with these papers. I want you to be informed so that it’s not something that causes you undue stress and anxiety about this whole process.
I think being more informed will help you navigate the process better. So with that, good luck as always, thank you.
Get Experienced Legal Help to Protect Your Land
To protect your rights as a landowner, you need the help of a lawyer who is experienced in condemnation law from the landowner’s side. Call 800-929-1725 for the help you need. We have offices in Fort Bend County, Matagorda County and Wharton County. Appointments can be in-person, online or by phone.
Mr. Hundl also offers a no-obligation case evaluation. Just click the button below and fill out the form.
- Original Petition and Application for TRO and Injunctive Relief
- TRO and Order Setting a Hearing on an Application for Temporary Injunction
- Interview with KXAN TV in Austin Regarding the Matterhorn Express Pipeline
- What’s a Temporary Right of Access Agreement
- Temporary Restraining Orders and Temporary Injunctions
- Matterhorn Express Pipeline Project Update as of 4/20/22
- Matterhorn Express Pipeline Project Update
- Matterhorn Express Pipeline Project