Julia Trigg Crawford was trying to challenge TransCanada's status as a common carrier — a label that would give the Calgary-based pipeline company (TSX:TRP) the right to eminent domain, enabling it to seize private property for the project.
In a decision late Wednesday, Lamar County Court-at-law judge Bill Harris ruled that TransCanada is a common carrier.
In a statement, Crawford vowed to keep fighting.
"I will continue to proudly stand up for my own personal rights, the property rights of my family, and those of other Texans fighting to protect their land," she said.
The company welcomed the ruling.
"This ruling reaffirms that TransCanada has — and continues — to follow all state and federal laws and regulations as we move forward with the construction of the Gulf Coast Project," company spokesman James Millar said in an email.
Jane Kleeb of the group Bold Nebraska, which has been fighting TransCanada's pipeline plans, calls the ruling an "affront to landowners' liberties."
"TransCanada has used its financial and legal resources to bully landowners like Julia Trigg Crawford in order to clear the way for their multibillion-dollar tar sands pipeline," Kleeb said in a release.
"Throughout the process, landowners have been cast aside and their concerns about land and water ignored."
The US$2.3-billion pipeline between Oklahoma and refineries on the Texas Coast had been part of TransCanada's Keystone XL proposal to ship Alberta oilsands crude to the Gulf Coast.
But the company decided earlier this year to break that project into two parts after the Obama administration rejected it in its entirety — not based on the merits of the pipeline itself, but because Republican manoeuvring to speed up the process would not have allowed sufficient time to address ecological concerns in Nebraska.
TransCanada aims to have the Gulf Coast Project, which does not need a federal permit to proceed as it doesn't cross an international border, up and running by mid- to late-2013. It has all the approvals it needs from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Meanwhile, it has submitted a new application for permit to build the northern portion of the pipeline, which would run from the Canada-U.S. border in Montana to Nebraska. TransCanada expects that segment to be in service in late 2014 or early 2015.