Ranching interests push for eminent domain law reform: Billings MT Gazette, 12/11/06

The Associated Press

After working with the oil and gas industry on a compromise bill to reform Wyoming's eminent domain law, the Wyoming Stock Growers and Wool Growers associations say now they'll lobby for more sweeping reforms.

"Eminent domain is just an incredibly personal issue to ranchers because it can be life or death," said Ogden Driskill, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association's regional vice president for northeast Wyoming.

Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said among other things, the two groups would push for a "public benefit" test to determine whether eminent domain actions for private uses would truly benefit the public, "which should not include minimizing corporate cost or streamlining permitting," according to the joint resolution.

"Ideally, these are what we'd like, and we are going to work through any number of mechanisms to get what we can," Magagna said. The move comes after some members of the ranching groups complained about the compromise bill, which was drafted with input from the Stock Growers and Wool Growers, along with the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, the Wyoming Farm Bureau and others.

Magagna acknowledged that he'd heard criticism from some of his members about the compromise bill. He said the ranching groups would fight - within reason - to get everything their members want.

"Our goal will be to get, to some degree, every one of those recommendations," Magagna said. "But we're going to have to make some judgment calls and some strategy calls along the way."

Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said he wasn't surprised to see the change in stance from the ranching groups.

But he said landowners have little to fear from eminent domain, which mostly is used for highways and other transportation rights of way.

"I don't think anyone is trying to abuse it," Hinchey said. "I think our companies and municipalities do a good job."

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