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Saturday, August 28, 2010

TransCanada, Nebraska Law Hide Fair Market Value from Condemnation Proceedings

Here's one more small way in which the eminent domain with which TransCanada threatens landowners is wholly unfair. Mother Jones posts a redacted PDF version of a letter TransCanada sent to a Central City, Nebraska, landowner making the final dollar offer for easements for the Keystone XL pipeline. We don't get to see the dollar figure... and neither will the judge if TransCanada goes to court to seize the land. Writes TransCanada's senior land robber baron Tim M. Irons:

While we hope to acquire this property through negotiation, if we are unable to do so, we will be forced to invoke the power of eminent domain and will initiate condemnation proceedings against this property promptly after the expiration of this one month period. In the event that we are forced to invoke the power of eminent domain, this letter and its contents are subject to Nebraska Revised Statute § 27-408 and are not admissable to prove the existence or amount of liability [Tim M. Irons, TransCanada, letter to landowner, 2010.07.21].

Sure enough, Nebraska statute 27-408 says landowners condemned by this foreign company can't establish the market value of their property by showing the judge the fair market value the most interested buyer was willing to offer. Of course, one could argue that 27-408 applies to negotiations, and this letter doesn't sound like negotiation; it sounds like intimidation, take it or leave it.

The deadline was August 21. No word yet on whether TransCanada has pulled the legal trigger. But remember, TransCanada hasn't even received the necessary permits to build Keystone XL. As the Lincoln JournalStar points out, forcing landowners to incur the legal expenses of fighting eminent domain in court even before they know whether the legal fight is necessary is grossly unfair to landowners. If TransCanada truly respected American landowners, it wouldn't go near the courts until its pipeline received official approval, if at all.
Side note on language: notice the weaselly use of passive voice by Irons. Twice he says the company "will be forced" to use eminent domain. Forced? By whom? This is standard corporate-speak, using vague passive voice to divest the corporation and the people running it of responsibility for the bad things they do. You aren't being forced, TransCanada. You are choosing to use the American courts against American citizens to take American land for nothing more than your own profit. (Irons does slip in paragraph 2 of the letter, saying, "Keystone will use eminent domain...." Credit for at least once owning the action with active voice.)

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. "Weaselly" language seems to be a signature of the gas industry.

    Those of us who have faced the threat of eminent domain in real life understand that property owners do not stand on a level playing field legally or politically.

    The energy industry is driving more eminent domain; and property owners I've talked with in New York, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Texas and elsewhere are fighting for a basic right.

    And they can fight back. Our two-year battle against Houston-based Spectra Energy which seized our property rights for an underground gas storage field led to the development of a website.

    Through it, we are collaborating and helping property owners in many states. To learn from our experience and to understand the adverse effects of eminent domain, refer to: Spectra Energy

    Or here: http://www.spectraenergywatch.com/blog/?p=616

    Samuel Adams described property as an “essential” right and wrote, “that no man can justly take the property of another without his consent.”


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