Pipelines and Eminent Domain [POLICYbrief]
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Pipelines and Eminent Domain [POLICYbrief]


Eminent domain is the power of the government
to seize private property for public use. Eminent domain is restricted by U.S. and State
Constitutions, which require that the private property owner be justly compensated for the
taking. Eminent domain does undermine private property
rights, almost by definition. But there are many limits to that. Historically, under the Common Law, there’s
a bundle of rights we recognize with property and there’s a broad spectrum. Eminent domain could be a complete taking
of the individual’s private property. That is, they are now removed from the property
and no longer an owner and have no rights at all. Or it could be a simple pipeline easement,
for example. Where you’re simply putting a pipeline three to
four feet beneath the ground, beneath the Earth’s surface and it’s an easement, a right of way. Some experts have argued that
pipelines displace people, farms, ranchers, communities, businesses when they use eminent
domain. That rarely happens because the pipeline typically
is taking a right of way or an easement. And so, the owner continues to occupy that
land. There’s a concern that the powerful can simply
go to the government and use their leverage to cease private property from the least politically
connected, or least powerful people in the body politic. For example, in Kelo versus City of New London,
you essentially had a powerful developer, uh, who comes into what is basically a working class
neighborhood in Connecticut and says to the government, “Look, I can do better with this
land than the people who live here. Therefore, how about we get these people out
of here, give them some money, and move forward?” The Supreme Court held that that was okay. That the government may seize private property
for purposes of economic development. That is highly controversial. Some states have enacted new laws, uh, for this
infrastructure explosion that we see with pipelines. The state of Texas, obviously, is a major
oil producer and over the past 15 years, there have been maybe three of four major attempts
and successful attempts at strengthening the rights of land owners as against pipeline
operators. So, for example, there’s something called
the “Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights.” And before anyone can exercise eminent domain,
they have to provide the landowner with this bill of rights, which basically is a very
nice, uh, summary of due process rights. So, the right to notice, the right to be heard,
your right to go to court. Some states like South Carolina and Georgia
have gone so far as to lay down moratoriums on pipeline construction. Anytime we want to move in on property rights,
there should be a very careful cost-benefit analysis and I think states around the country
are trying their best. You’re seeing added protections being put
in for property owners, post Kelo, and for pipeline construction, as well. Nothing can be more fundamental to this country
and its founding then understanding that property is the guardian of every other right. There’s no stronger bulwark against tyrants
that you have and you keep strong private property rights. This bias we have in favor of the property
owner is a very good one that we should continue to have and protect.

6 Comments

  • UneedAname45

    I believe it is an abuse of eminent domain to use it for private businesses. It should only be used for public purposes.

  • Mr Happy

    Wow. This sounds like a defense of involuntary heirarchy. Make it look pretty and people will believe it, amirite?

  • evan1238

    Why did they not touch on the fact that in Kelo, the developer backed out post demolition of the houses- essentially leaving an empty lot in its wake?

  • Aiea Slippers

    Damn.. . . . this is your worst video. So many vague words and contradictions in this video. Remake this video with a more objective analysis. Very poorly done.

  • ny1t

    It is important to recognize the difference between eminent domain and CRONY eminent domain. Eminent domain is government taking for public use. Crony eminent domain is government stealing one persons property to give to another. Justice Thomas said, "Defying this understanding, the court replaces the public use clause with the public purpose"

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