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Chesapeake files against woman battling pipeline

FORT WORTH -- Chesapeake Energy filed condemnation papers Thursday on a 72-year-old woman who has been holding out against a planned natural gas pipeline beneath her front yard in the West Meadowbrook neighborhood.

Jerry Horton said Chesapeake hasn't done enough to look for other routes, and has refused to give up a right-of-way for the pipeline. The pipeline, which will connect two well sites along Interstate 30, would require easements beneath the front yards of 44 homes and vacant lots on Carter Avenue in East Fort Worth.

A Tarrant County court-at-law judge appointed three commissioners to hear the case and set the value of the 20-by-100 foot easement.

Horton said she has lined up a lawyer, but "I haven't made up my mind whether to go through with it."

At least one other neighbor has vowed to fight the pipeline in court.

A hearing in the case is set for Aug. 21 at the Tarrant County Bar Association headquarters on Calhoun Street.

In a condemnation case, the commissioners hear testimony only about the value of the land in question. If Horton is still not satisfied, she can appeal the decision to state district court. It's only at that level that she can raise other issues, such as whether Chesapeake did enough to look for other routes, or whether the company has a legal right to condemn land.

Under Texas law, Chesapeake's pipeline subsidiary, known as Texas Midstream Gas Services, can condemn land the same as any other utility company.

Chesapeake officials have previously said Carter Avenue is the best route for the pipeline, but the case has touched nerves across Fort Worth. A company spokesman said last week that Chesapeake has made numerous offers to Horton, and were offering $12,800 for the pipeline right-of-way, or more than $120 per linear foot.

City Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks has been working to find an alternate route for the pipeline, and two state representatives, Lon Burnam and Marc Veasey, turned out for a public meeting on the issue Wednesday night.