Lawmakers hear debate on eminent domain law: Billings MT Gazette, 9/18/06

Associated Press

Developers of power lines, streets, oil and gas and other projects were scheduled to testify at a Monday morning committee meeting, where they hoped to limit proposed changes to Wyoming's eminent domain laws proposed by landowners advocating for more protections and compensation.

The Legislature's Joint Agriculture, Public Lands and Water Resources Interim Committee planned to hear from landowners, oil and gas developers and others on changes in the law that governs the seizure of private property for public projects, such as highways.

The issue was raised when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that municipalities could seize homes so a private developer could put up condominiums, a hotel and office buildings.

The draft legislation before Wyoming lawmakers would clarify current law to make it illegal to take property for the benefit of a private developers or for "economic development, industrial development, an increase to the tax base, and increase to tax revenues, an increase in employment, an increase in general economic health." But the proposal goes even further and seeks to add new restrictions and conditions for using eminent domain for traditional public projects.

Landowners contend the law now leaves them at a disadvantage when facing developers of oil and gas, power lines and pipelines wielding the threat of eminent domain. But developers counter the current law is fair and necessary in obtaining rights of way and easements to deliver Wyoming's energy resources to consumers in the state and across the nation.

With ambitious plans to build new power plants and transmission lines across the state and new railroad tracks into northeast Wyoming, the stakes are high for both landowners and developers over any changes to the law.

Billings MT Gazette: http://www.billingsgazette.net