Panel doesn't tinker with domain bill: Casper WY Star-Tribune, 2/13/07

By Joan Barron

Representatives of [Wyoming] industry testified Monday that a section of a bill reforming the state's eminent domain laws would mean more condemnation proceedings against landowners.

Chuck Greenhawt of Cheyenne, representing Questar, said the language in the section on fair market value in House Bill 124 would also put unprecedented restrictions on the courts.

Greenhawt said Questar, which is primarily a natural gas company, has not filed an eminent domain action in Wyoming in 20 years.

“We pride ourselves for being able to work with landowners,” he said.

The existing law, he added,. is working pretty well.

But amendments submitted by a coalition that includes primarily industry to remove the fair market value section from the bill were not considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday morning.

Instead, the bill was approved 5-0 and goes to the floor of the Senate for debate in the same form as it passed the House.

Sen. Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said representatives of the Wyoming Landowners Association said Friday that although the bill does not contain everything they want, they are willing to live with it.

“I think that's a major concession for them,” Ross said later Monday. “I knew that if we took up the coalition's amendments, we would have amendments from the landowners."

“We didn't want to move too far from the House bill and risk losing the bill," he added.

The bill passed the House on a 56-4 vote.

Its main purpose is to deal with is to deal with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said a community can condemn private property and then lease it to a private developer.

Ross said the bill takes care of that decision. It also requires companies to give landowners advance notice of their plans for easements and to engage in good-faith negotiations.

Casper WY Star-Tribune: http://www.jacksonholestartrib.com