Friday, March 20, 2009

Eminent domain bill set for hearing March 25

HB 1483 by Rep. Pitts, supported by the Farm Bureau, which will give more protection to rural residents against eminent domain for such projects as the Trans-Texas Corridor, has been set for a public hearing in the Land & Resource Management Committee, for Wednesday, March 25, at 8 a.m., at the Capitol in Room E2.012.

Pitts has secured many co-authors, so there is legislative support for this bill. It would be good for as many of us as possible to show up and testify in favor or to submit written comments.

Our new District 52 Representative Diana Maldonado has signed on as a co-author of this bill. Thank you Representive Maldonado! I doubt if our former Representative Krusee would have supported anything that was opposed by Gov. 39%, even if it was in the best interests of his constituents.


Chris said...

Heads Up, Folks. You will want to attend this and other meetings and ensure your property rights are respected and protected.

Speaking as someone actually fighting eminent domain in federal court with Houston-based Spectra Energy, I can confirm that it amounts to legal plunder under the badge of government.

Ultimately, power corrupts; and the power of eminent domain in the hands of government — which is transferred to a business — creates a sense of entitlement; and it creates an atmosphere ripe for abuse.

As you know, nowadays, eminent domain has less to do with projects for the “public good,” and everything to do with the financial good of publicly held companies.

In Bedford County, Pennsylvania (about 2 hours from Washington), property owners are being hauled into federal court by Spectra Energy, backed by the power of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The “public good” argument is that this is an underground natural gas storage site (bring gas from somewhere else for a fee, store it for a fee, then send it to the northeast via pipelines and charge another fee).

What goes missing is that the landowners’ property is sitting on top of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale; but they can’t develop that because Spectra Energy wants to use the Oriskany sands layer (which lies just beneath the Marcellus) for its underground gas storage facility.

This site is said to be “critical,” but Pennsylvania has more underground natural gas storage sites than any other state in the continental US, according to the Dept. of Energy.

Further, in its most recent motion, Spectra Energy asked that the federal judge exclude evidence that would argue “economic loss to the landowner” for fear that the jury would be “confused, misled and distracted … waste time.” (From p. 7 of the motion: Case 3:08-cv-00154-KRG, Document 59).

Here is the great conundrum in eminent domain: property owners possess the key asset that companies and government covet — the land. But they are treated as obstacles in this process rather than as key stakeholders.

For info & a landowner video:

suzeekew said...

Chris, I'm sorry to hear about your bad situation with Spectra Energy. Please see today's post about Dan Byfield, his American Land Foundation, and the strategy of "Coordination." Might be an extra avenue for your group to explore.