Category: Articles

Simply Saying “No” to Easement Offers

The article below offers insight on how to deal with condemning agencies. In reality, if an agency thinks it needs property, it will likely acquire it. In this writer’s view, it is best to ascertain how you as an owner can protect yourself, rather than simply trying to make things more difficult for the agency. Sometimes, obstructing and spiting an agency is not the most advantageous strategy for a property owner. On the other hand,  forcing the matter into court is sometimes the only way an owner can get just compensation and fair treatment.

Plainview (Texas) Herald

At least one local attorney says landowners could benefit by just saying "no" to companies seeking easements for transmission lines designed to carry wind-generated electricity from this region to other parts of the state.

Others involved in the industry caution about taking such dramatic action.

Crosbyton attorney and former State Rep. Joe Heflin, who is representing various landowners in the easement negotiations, encouraged anyone presented with a wind energy or right-of-way easement contract to seek legal council, "because it’s something that will not only effect the rest of your live, but it will effect your children and grandchildren’s lives. In another words, this is a really long-term contract."

With their legal training, Heflin said, lawyers should be able to review to contracts to determine their exact terms.

Another important thing to consider is who you are dealing with. "Sharyland has been in operation for a long time and is very reputable," Heflin said. "They are one of the better companies to deal with and will work with you as much as possible."

When negotiating easements, landowners should consider more factors than just reimbursement, he said. The actual placement of the transmission lines can impact irrigation systems, cropping and land usage patterns and the market value of the rest of the property. "Be very cautious, and don’t let anyone tell you that you have to sign a contract in so many days. Don’t give up any of those rights for a minute without first getting legal representation in place. But remember, if it goes into litigation, you may or may not come out the winner."

 

The Wyoming Windmill Challenge

Windmill developers tend to favor owners upon whose land windmills themselves are located. Property owners in the path of proposed transmission lines for these projects react negatively to this disparate treatment. Meanwhile, the Wyoming legislature continues to work out a solution with little progress.

The likely legislative result will be that before using eminent domain power, agencies must acquire a certain percentage of easements through voluntary agreements with landowners. This is the only sensible approach when owners in the path of proposed transmission lines perceive that the developers are treating them differently. Have concerned citizens figured this out yet?

Casper Star Tribune 

A proposed two-year extension of Wyoming’s moratorium on wind developers’ eminent domain powers advanced in the state House on Thursday.

By a voice vote, state representatives passed House Bill 230 on first reading; the legislation must pass two more House votes before it would head to the Senate for consideration.

State Rep. Kermit Brown, the Laramie Republican sponsoring the bill, said allowing the current one-year moratorium to expire on July 1 would raise landowners’ wariness of eminent domain when dealing with wind developers on land leases to build collector lines.

Brown said landowners want more time to develop a plan for legislators’ consideration that would either ban or restrict wind companies’ use of eminent domain.

But other lawmakers questioned why the state should prohibit wind developers from using eminent domain when other industries are still allowed to employ such powers.

State Rep. Tim Stubson, R-Casper, speaking against the bill, said lack of transmission lines makes it extremely unlikely that any collector lines will be built in the next two years.

 

Common Sense Reform in South Dakota

The editorial below raises an interesting issue. At what point in the planning process can an agency initiate condemnation proceedings? How many permits or approvals must a company like TransCanada obtain for its Keystone XL interstate oil pipeline before it can begin land acquisition? If agencies initiate condemnation early in the permitting process, the damage to property owners is more extensive. Even if a company has obtained a majority of permits and government approvals, the remainder may take years, while the threat of condemnation looms over owners and the value of their property potentially decreases.

Bill 1177 would require approval of all permits prior to the exercise of eminent domain. This common sense proposal would protect property owners from becoming embroiled in the protracted permitting process.

The Argus Leader

Several state legislators are supporting a bill to require private companies to acquire all of their permits before condemning land. Though portions of the bill should be tweaked, the legislation has lots of merit.

Because projects such as Keystone XL require a host of permits, forcing a company to gain every one before seeking to condemn land might be unreasonable. But companies definitely should be required to secure a good share of key permits first.

We support the idea of this legislation and encourage the bill’s sponsors to find reasonable adjustments in order to be fair to private companies and landowners alike.