The Keystone Oil Pipeline
© TransCanada Corporation/Handout, Reuters
The Keystone Oil Pipeline is pictured under construction in North Dakota in this undated photograph released on January 18, 2012.

Washington - A Texas family farm has won a temporary restraining order to block TransCanada Corp. from building the Keystone XL pipeline through its property, accusing the company of dealing in bad faith and withholding vital information about the project.

Lawyers for TransCanada and the Crawford Family Farm in northeastern Texas's Lamar County are now set to square off at a hearing Friday that could determine whether to approve the Calgary-based company's petition to condemn the property under eminent domain laws.

"We don't think they have negotiated in good faith," said attorney John Pieratt, who represents farm manager Julia Trigg Crawford.

"They just want to build the thing without us having our day in court."

At issue is TransCanada's effort to gain a right-of-way easement allowing it to build the future Keystone XL pipeline across the Crawford farm.

TransCanada launched legal proceedings against the farm's owners after they rejected a cash offer to run Keystone XL through the property.

The Crawford family contends TransCanada has failed to provide a required "material safety data sheet" detailing the nature of the product that will be shipped through Keystone XL.

"The only way you can negotiate with somebody in good faith is for them to tell you what they going to transport in the pipeline," said Pieratt. "How else will they know how to appreciate the dangers, or the environmental pollution, or anything else, without that knowledge?"

The landowners also claim TransCanada has done a "slipshod" study of the archeological impact of building the pipeline across the land, said Pieratt.

The property includes an area with archeological artifacts and earthen mounds from the Caddo Indians.

"We believe that the temporary restraining order is without merit and we plan to challenge it," said Terry Cunha, a TransCanada spokesman.

"Our commitment is to treat landowners with honesty, fairness and respect, to work with them and come up with the best possible solution."

The company has obtained 99 per cent of the easements it needs in Texas, Cunha added.

President Barack Obama last month denied TransCanada's application for a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry about 830,000 barrels of oil per day from northern Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

TransCanada says it will re-apply for a permit after completing plans for an alternate route that avoids the ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska.

In the interim, the company is considering whether to begin work on a southern leg of the pipeline - from an existing hub in Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast - that would not require new Obama administration approval.

"From our perspective our number one priority is going ahead with the entire project," said Cunha.

"Over the last month, we've received a lot of inbound interest from potential shippers as to whether we could go forward with the Cushing to Gulf Coast phase . . . We think there's potentially a lot of merit to it and we're just working through that right now."

TransCanada has stirred anger among some landowners along the proposed Keystone XL route. They argue the company has been too aggressive in seeking to condemn property under eminent domain laws, even before a permit for the pipeline has been issued.

The company says it is operating under federal and state eminent domain laws in which a pipeline is treated like a utility or a common carrier.

"TransCanada does not assume ownership rights for the land that the pipeline easement is acquired for," Cunha said. "Property ownership never changes hands - the landowner retains full ownership throughout the construction and operation of our pipeline and they also retain the economic rights to the surface."

U.S. environmentalists also have raised concerns about the chemical composition of the oilsands crude that will be shipped through the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Crawford family in Texas, which has been part of a coalition opposed to the pipeline's construction, says it shares those worries.

"They have not given us any information about what they are purporting to transport," said Pieratt, the family lawyer. "It's kind of like they're saying, 'trust us.' Well, I don't think so."