TVA’s clients bought a 138-acre parcel across the street from Meadows Field airport, a property hoped to be the “window to the city” of Bakersfield. When undisclosed Shell and Chevron pipelines were found and they refused to relocate them, however, development ground to a halt. After several months of stalemate, this “window” property showed nothing but the power pipeline operators wield in Kern County.
TVA sued the operators in federal court for the Eastern District of California in C & C Properties, Inc., et al., v. Shell Pipeline Co., et al. TVA immediately moved the court for a preliminary injunction requiring the operators to remove their pipelines and allow TVA’s clients to continue development. In response, Shell called upon Kern County officials and the California Public Utilities Commission, in an attempt to overcome the property owners’ rights.
The District Court agreed with TVA and issued a mandatory injunction in favor of its clients. The District Court agreed with TVA that Shell could not hide behind the authority of the PUC to deny plaintiffs’ property rights, and could not invoke County road right-of-way documents to prove new property rights out of thin air.
Beyond the merits, the District Court also agreed with TVA that its clients would suffer irreparable harm without an injunction because they would permanently lose their market advantage in developing the property, and that “the balance of equities tips in their favor.”
The District Court also agreed that TVA’s motion served the public interest in seeing pipeline operators comply with the law just like everybody else:
Plaintiffs argue “there is a public interest in upholding the law and having parties abide by their legal duties. (Id., citing In re PTI Holding Corp., 346 B.R. 820, 832 (Bankr. Nev. 2006); J.C. Penney Co., Inc. v. Giant Eagle, Inc., 813 F.Supp. 360, 371 (W.D. Pa. 1992)). The Court agrees.
The recommended findings and ruling were issued by Magistrate Judge Jennifer Thurston on September 23, 2015. They were adopted as the order of the Eastern District Court on December 7, 2015. TVA is pleased that entrenched interests — literally — were not able to maintain their de facto “litigation taking” against the rightful owners of the window to Bakersfield.