Against Eminent Domain Abuse
Today, pipeline companies are allowed to forcibly take land from unwilling property owners due to questionable court cases that have severely limited the rights of property owners under the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution. Eminent domain—the process by which property is involuntarily taken from those who do not wish to sell—has historically been used mostly by government agencies to build government-owned projects, such as schools, hospitals and roads.
When it comes to pipelines, however, both the federal government (through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and most state governments can authorize private companies to take private land so long as they pay “just compensation”—a dollar-amount that rarely seems “just” to the person whose property is being taken. This use of eminent domain for private gain can be devastating to farmers, ranchers and other property owners. And it doesn’t matter if your land is in a conservation trust or is supposed to be forever wild – it can still be taken and a pipeline placed underneath. This misuse of eminent domain encourages the development of new oil and gas pipelines and ties us to a fossil fuel future we don’t want or need. We believe it is not right for private corporations to take land by eminent domain solely for their own private gain.
National Legislation and Litigation Strategy
We have drafted federal legislation and are actively looking for bill sponsors.
The bill we have drafted vests the power to exercise eminent domain for interstate fossil fuel pipelines exclusively with the federal government and then prohibits the federal government from using eminent domain for pipelines and pipeline facilities.
State legislation to restrict the right of oil pipeline companies to take land by eminent domain is pending in several states and has been enacted into law in Georgia and South Carolina.
The PRPC is co-sponsoring a Pipeline Law Conference in early November where legal experts on various pipeline and property rights issues will discuss a national litigation strategy. Following the conference the PRPC will produce a Citizen’s guide to fighting your local pipeline.
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