Thursday, January 17, 2008

Eminent Domain

According to this page at ExpertLaw.com,
Eminent domain refers to the power possessed by the state over all property within the state, specifically its power to appropriate property for a public use....


Ordinarily, a government can exercise eminent domain only if its taking will be for a "public use" - which may be expansively defined along the lines of public "safety, health, interest, or convenience". Perhaps the most common example of a "public use" is the taking of land to build or expand a public road or highway....


In recent decades there has been growing concern about the manner in which some states and units of government exercise their power of eminent domain. Some governments appear inclined to exercise eminent domain for the benefit of developers or commercial interests...

Is this an appropriate use of eminent domain?

Excerpt from a January 16, 2008 article in the Washington Post:
LE ROY, Ill. -- This expanse of central Illinois is flat as a pancake, with corn and soybean fields stretching to the horizon, interrupted only by a smattering of small towns.

But it is also a 175-mile missing link in Enbridge's Alberta-to-Texas pipeline network to transport gooey, thick bitumen oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

By connecting the southern Illinois oil transport hub of Patoka with an Enbridge pipeline near Pontiac, the Canadian firm, in partnership with Exxon Mobil, could beat out other companies that have also announced plans for pipelines connecting Canada to the Gulf Coast.

Several farmers are standing in Enbridge's way, however, refusing to let the company build the pipeline through their land. At a public meeting, Bob Kelly, 81, called Enbridge "highway robbers." He said there is no way he will allow the company to tear up farmland that has been in his family for 125 years. "It's not for sale at any price," he said.

Enbridge is offering to pay farmers market value for use of a 120-foot-wide strip of their land, plus fees for crop loss and soil damage. The farmers would retain the rights to their land, and the company said they could continue farming on top of the pipeline, which would be five feet underground once completed. A number of farmers have signed on.

"It should be seen as progress to bring some crude oil down here to central Illinois," said John Gramm, 76, of Gridley. "It's good for business and labor, and it makes us less dependent on foreign oil."...
Anybody with an ounce of sense realizes that we need to become less dependent on foreign oil. But, according to the article,
"This is not a public agency carrying out a public project like a highway," said Howard A. Learner, president of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, based in Chicago. "It's a private Canadian company moving oil to make a profit."


Thomas J. Pliura, a Le Roy attorney for residents opposed to the petition, said locals think they would get no direct benefit from the pipeline.

"The irony is you have a Canadian foreign company coming in here demanding eminent domain to take American land to transport oil that could then be sold to China," said Pliura...
Is Mr. Pliura exagerrating? Maybe. But maybe not.

Just how much outsourcing can America endure?

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