Giving landowners the power

Farm Forum

Lyons, Nebraska – On May 11, the Center for Rural Affairs released a report entitled Giving Landowners the Power: A Democratic Approach for Assembling Transmission Corridors. The report examines key strategies for addressing the shortcomings of eminent domain while improving the transmission development process.

“Whether adopted by legislators, transmission providers, or other entities, the findings of this report represent a huge step forward in land-assembly thinking, whereby development would proceed without burdening landowners,” Brandon Gerstle, Center for Rural Affairs Energy Fellow and author of the report concluded. “Further, in the context of interstate transmission development, the findings of this report should help society realize the benefits of renewable energy, including the promotion of national energy independence, mitigation of climate change effects, and creation of economic opportunities for all Americans, especially in rural America.”

According to Gerstle, by creating uniform siting and condemnation laws, as well as including landowners in the planning and profits of development, land assembly should no longer act as a roadblock to the development of interstate transmission. Legislatures, transmission providers, and PUCs should seriously consider implementing the recommendations of this report because they show great promise in creating procedural and cost efficiencies, as well as promoting due process rights.

“Typically developers attempt to purchase easements through negotiations. And they are often provided eminent domain authority if negotiations fail,” explained Johnathan Hladik, Senior Policy Advocate for Energy and Climate at the Center for Rural Affairs. “This authority has been used for years to build highways and railroads. However, there are problems with its use that create frustrations for landowners and developers alike.”

Many feel eminent domain erodes property rights and removes liberties. It is expensive, requiring administrative and legal costs that are ultimately paid for by electric users. And compensation fails to consider personal preferences, family history, and community bonds, Hladik continued.

“This report suggests that alternatives to eminent domain focus on two solutions – promoting public involvement during planning and approval, and creating a way for landowners to share information with each other and other stakeholders,” said Hladik. “Ultimately, we know that infrastructure must be in place to carry wind energy where it is needed if we are to continue to benefit from this growing industry. To ensure that transmission is built in a way that works best for all involved, this report demonstrates that landowners must be fairly compensated and local communities must be much more involved.”

A full copy of the report can be viewed or downloaded at: