Richard Starke, Burlington, N.D., letter: Close loophole in N.D.'s eminent-domain law
BURLINGTON, N.D. -- In November 2006, more than 67 percent of North Dakotans voted in favor of a constitutional measure that restricted the use of eminent domain to public purposes only. The law makes exceptions for utilities and common carriers,...
BURLINGTON, N.D. -- In November 2006, more than 67 percent of North Dakotans voted in favor of a constitutional measure that restricted the use of eminent domain to public purposes only. The law makes exceptions for utilities and common carriers, but the implication is that these common carriers and utilities should directly benefit the people of the state.
Unfortunately, the law does not spell this out. It is up to the next legislative session to close the loopholes.
For example, utilities may use eminent domain to take land from an unwilling owner if they supply energy to "cities or counties." The implication is that these are cities or counties in North Dakota, but because it is not spelled out, a loophole exists.
The lack of definition or limitation in the "common carriers" provision has allowed the use of eminent domain to take land from unwilling North Dakota landowners for a private pipeline that has no outlets in North Dakota and whose ownership is not only out of state but also out of the country.
The eminent domain law needs an overhaul, and the coming election is the time to do it. We must ask candidates for the state Legislature whether they will support legislation to close these loopholes and vote only for those who promise to do so.
I was very disappointed in the conduct of our elected officials who endorsed the pipeline before the environmental impact statement was even completed. Our Public Service Commission needs to have its role changed to protect citizens of North Dakota, not corporations in foreign nations. The coming election also is the the time to find new commissioners.
The state's 30,000 landowners must stop being "nice guys" and demand action rather than words. When our current officials fail to act on behalf of their constituents, we must find people who will.