Revoke pipeline eminent domain –bill by Nebraska state Senator

It’s time to revoke laws that support the foreign aristocracy of invading fossil fuel companies.

Unicameral Update, 13 March 2015, Bill would revoke eminent domain for pipelines,

Oil and gas companies could no longer exercise eminent domain in Nebraska under a bill heard by the Judiciary Committee March 11.

LB473, introduced by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, would repeal two provisions of the Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act: the right of eminent domain granted to oil and gas companies and the requirement that they seek approval of the governor when siting a major oil pipeline….

The act, approved by the Legislature during a 2011 special session, was designed to provide a regulatory framework for siting oil pipelines in the state. It was amended in 2012 to give the governor authority to approve major oil pipeline routes.

Concern over the state’s pipeline regulations was prompted by TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canada to Gulf Coast oil refineries. The pipeline’s original route would have traversed the Ogallala Aquifer and Nebraska Sandhills.

And why should eminent domain apply anywhere to Spectra Energy’s proposed Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline to LNG export in Florida, through our drinking water Floridan Aquifer?

Chambers said his bill is designed to undo legislation “tailored to fit the wishes of a foreign-owned, for-profit company.” Even when used for public benefit, eminent domain is one of the most intrusive governmental activities, he said, and the Legislature should ensure Nebraska landowners are protected from corporate intimidation.

Ditto for a Houston, Texas-owned company wanting to gouge a hundred-foot right of way through Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

“This bill is a shot across the bow of TransCanada and any other corporation that thinks the voice of this Legislature will be silenced,” Chambers said.

How about the silent Florida, Georgia, and Alabama legislatures speak up against the Sabal Trail foreign invasion?

David Domina, an attorney representing landowners opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline, testified in support of the bill. The state should help landowners set equitable terms when a private company secures land using eminent domain, Domina said. Rental rates, equipment removal and cleanup policies should be critical factors in negotiations, he said.

“When you grant that power, you can limit it,” Domina said. “If the power of eminent domain is used carefully, it can make land more valuable, not less.”

That’s a good start. How about add the pipeline company has to justify need for their proposed pipeline in an independent court of law, at their expense, before eminent domain will even be considered?

Art Tanderup, a Neligh farmer whose land is on the pipeline route, also spoke in favor of the bill. His rights as a property owner and the value of his land are being cast aside in favor of greed, he said.

“No Nebraskan should be asked to take a tremendous risk for the sake of corporate profit,” Tanderup said. “If we destroy the Ogallala Aquifer, this state will become a desert.”

If we let Sabal Trail destroy the Floridan Aquifer, where will we be?

Bonny Kilmurry, a Holt County landowner on the pipeline path, testified in favor of the bill, saying the limited lifespan of the pipeline would present a huge financial and environmental burden to her heirs. Because of current law, she said, TransCanada does not have to agree to equitable compensation or consider pipeline removal when it is no longer in use.

“A private corporation has no reason to negotiate fair terms when can they can invoke eminent domain,” she said.

Why do we tolerate this aristocracy of fossil fuel companies?

Jeanne Crumly, a landowner from Page whose land is on the pipeline route, agreed. Her family has had numerous successful experiences negotiating land use for roads and utilities, she said in her support of the bill. TransCanada, on the other hand, has ignored her concerns, she said, and threatened to take her land without compensation.

“We understand [eminent domain] for public use. What we don’t understand is the taking of land for corporate profit,” Crumly said. “When [land use] is for a foreign company, the commitment to the community is lost.”

Still no answer from Sabal Trail to Tom Hochschild’s request of more than a year ago for profit sharing to help the community.

TransCanada’s response to the Nebraska bill sounded just like what we do hear from Sabal Trail all the time:

Andrew Craig, TransCanada land manager of Keystone projects, testified in opposition to the bill, saying his company has reached agreements with 460 of 470 Nebraska landowners on the proposed route.

Yeah, yeah, Sabal Trail has been claiming something like 80% of landowners agree for a long time. Yet they continue to worry about the remainder, so they must matter. Just like the old “nine out of ten doctors agree” TV ads, Sabal Trail won’t identify any of the landowners, so why should we believe anything they say about landowners?

Back to TransCanada:

Although LB473 may not impact the Keystone XL project, he said, it would be a roadblock for future pipelines.

“Bills like this will make it increasingly difficult for companies like mine to build pipelines,” Craig said. “We view eminent domain as the absolute last resort.”

Oh, right; that’s why Sabal Trail has been threatening eminent domain since 2013. Sounds much more like a first resort to me.

New pipelines are for the profit of companies from somewhere else at the expense of local landowners, taxpayers, and communities. We should stop tolerating these invasions by foreign aristocracies. Let’s revoke the laws that enable such invasions.


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