Panel shifts course on eminent domain: Jackson Hole WY Star-Tribune, 10/27/06

By Dustin Bleizeffer

A legislative committee on Thursday dropped its own draft bill to reform Wyoming's eminent domain laws and instead approved a substitute draft put together by a group of energy industry and agriculture group leaders.

Joint Agriculture, Public Lands and Water Resources Committee Chairman Sen. Gerald Geis, R-Worland, cast the single dissenting vote against the substitute bill. He said he was disappointed that opposing factions involved in the process were unable to bring a compromise to the committee.

Eminent domain usually describes the power of a government to force access to private land through easement, lease or sale for public use. In Wyoming, eminent domain powers have long been extended to private companies that require easements for water facilities, oil and natural gas pipelines and electrical power lines and substations.

At issue are several key provisions that private property advocates say are needed to make the state's eminent domain laws fairer without throwing up roadblocks to industrial development: first, early notification to landowners of intent to develop; and second, a checklist of compensation triggers.

Some type of certification that ensures a condemnation actually meets the state's "public necessity" requirement is also needed, according supporters of eminent domain reform.

The substitute bill, which was put together by energy industry leaders and officials from the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Wool Growers Association and the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, excluded those provisions. Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Stock Growers Association, said those provisions "went too far" and would have rendered the committee's bill dead on arrival if brought to the Legislature.

However, the committee did re-insert notification and compensation provisions to the new bill. The measure now will be introduced to a select House committee, where further amendments will be considered.

Jackson Hole WY Star-Tribune: http://www.jacksonholestartrib.com