Marine Vet Protests Keystone XL Pipeline by Hanging US Flag Upside Down

Written by Julie Dermansky

As environmentalists figure out the next steps in their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline after a discouraging report from the State Department concluded that the project’s impacts on the climate will be minimal, some landowners in Texas continue to battle construction of the southern portion of the pipeline, which is already half complete.

Mike Bishop, a US Marine veteran and one-time chicken farmer in Douglass, Texas is trying to get TransCanada to remove the  pipeline that it  recently installed through the center of his property. Sections of Keystone XL have been laid just 120 feet from his home and cut right through his garden, which a construction crew did not hesitate to destroy. In a sign of protest, Bishop has hung his American flag upside down. “The United States flag code states the flag should be flown upside down as a signal of dire distress in the instance of extreme danger to life or property,” Bishop says.

Bishop is in distress. He’s fighting TransCanada, a foreign corporation with deep pockets, on his own. In December Bishop won a temporary  halt to construction, but then felt he had to settle with the company because  his lawyer, who he has since fired, said if he didn’t settle he would face eviction. He told the Associated Press that he settled “under duress,” and so be bought a law book so he could defend himself moving forward.

Bishop tried to stop the pipeline from crossing his land by accusing TransCanada of fraud. He points outs that the company’s permit is for the transporting of crude oil when, in fact, the company will be transporting bitumen, which is not the same. Bishop also asserts that Texas laws do not allow property to be seized by eminent domain unless the project is one in which the public has an interest; Bishop says the pipeline will only result in private gain. TransCanada countered that others will use the pipeline, too; but the company did not provide proof of that assertion before being granted eminent domain rights by the Texas railroad commission.

Bishop’s case was thrown out by a judge who said he didn’t have jurisdiction over the matter and negated the injunction Bishop had been granted stopping work initialy. Bishop filed an appeal on March 1.

Other landowners are fighting against eminent domain as well. Their efforts, like Bishop’s, have been stymied by lower court decisions that dismiss their case without explanation. Julia Trigg Crawford of Sumer, Texas is waging a battle against TransCanda too, despite the high cost of standing up for herself. Her case was dismissed, but she is appealing that ruling. And in Beaumont, Texas, attorney Anthony Borcato has also filed suit against Trans Canada, alleging TransCanada’s pipeline does not meet the state’s definition of a common carrier, disqualifying it from utilizing the Texas eminent domain laws. Despite President Obama’s fast tracking of the southern portion of the Keystone XL, the Texas landowners say they are determined to continue the fight.

Bishop says Texans were short changed by the fast tracking of the Keystone XL’s southern portion. The state didn’t do the kind of environmental impact study that was done in Nebraska, which resulted in the pipeline being re-routed away from the Ogallala aquifer. The path of the southern pipeline portion goes through the Texas Ogallala aquifer, which is also classified as an “ultra-sensitive area” by the US Department of Transportation.

Bishop will be filing suit against the US Army Corps of Engineers in federal court, asserting Texas was not given equal protection under the law. He also plans to challenge Obama’s executive order for bypassing statutory and regulatory law.

Bishop says that TransCanda’s lawyer recently complimented him on his legal work. But Bishop isn’t interested in niceties. He wants TransCanada off his land so he can return his American flag to right side up.

Watch this video of Bishop explaining why he’s flying the American flag upside down:

This post was originally published by the Earth Island Journal.



Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill5 years ago

He should be ashamed using the flag this way!!!

Lynn Squance
Lynn Squance5 years ago

I feel for Mr Bishop. And what more would you expect from a Texas court? . . . after all they are red, just like the state. The little guys, like Mr Bishop haven't got a chance. I wish Bishop well.

Geri Mellgren-Kerwin

Dear Winn: Mike Bishop's protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline is the bravest thing he has ever done as a Marine.

Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago


Nick Andrews
Nico Smart5 years ago

You are right on this issue Kimberlee. Eminent domain is unconstitutional, no matter what. It is completely unacceptable and I do not understand why go on. Call it what you want, communism, fascism, etc. but the rights of property owners is one of the most basic foundations of freedom.

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

Uh, Hello? Let's not discount the recent rash of eminent domain seizures in the north.
I just moved to Michigan only to find out the morning after closing that the local teaching, organic farm in the next town was just sacrificed and taken by the Koch Bro.
And - Just like a big, middle finger to the town and community, - they're going to ram the pipeline right through the barn!

I fear we cannot stop this. I've been writing & protesting for almost a decade now, but this project is going through.
I think we need to get boring. Al Capone did all kinds of crime, yet it was the Boringest crime of all that got him into prison - tax evasion!
We need to go through the books (like Bishop did) and - at the very least - FORCE these entities to build the pipeline PROPERLY! Right now, all they're doing is lining the lines with - basically duct tape and then saying it's safe enough. BULL!!!!!!
They don't take into consideration that these pipes are now going to be carrying a product that is Much Hotter and much Heavier than crude.
Or the fact that in spite of their so-called "inspections", there are more than a thousand potential, identified breaches of the line.
We need to take them to court in much bigger numbers over the more mundane safety issues if we're to have any bearing on the policy.
They will not abandon the money already spent so easily.

Lynn Demsky
Lynn D5 years ago

Thanks, GREAT way to protest!!!

Nick Andrews
Nico Smart5 years ago

Of course BHO is not progressive. He and his cronies at the far left field are regressive. They are doing everything they can to keep people uneducated, unskilled and dependent on government handouts to retain their votes. It's modern slavery of all races. Playing the ignorant against the imagined evils of the formerly Republican party (now too many religious wackos) just makes sure nothing changes. Both of those so-called parties are corporate shills living off the workers. They pit the lazy against the 'rich' to keep things in turmoil while the middle class disappears.

Robert H.
Robert Hamm5 years ago

Gayle Obama can only be as progressive as the VERY right congress allows him to be. The pressure for this pipeline is incredibly high and relentless. He may not be able to stop it.

Spirit Spider
Spirit Spider5 years ago

The judges who dismissed the cases should be charged with negligence in upholding the law!