Will Montana Modify Its Eminent Domain Act?


In order to facilitate the MATL power line, Nevada allowed electric company eminent domain actions on unauthorized routes.

Now that MATL has completed the project, some maintain the statute should be modified. The chance of repeal is unlikely given the strong opposition to repeal by other utility companies.

Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/new-fight-brewing-over-eminent-domain/article_13295f67-b2e9-5935-9fe3-276028893399.html#ixzz2Jf8pjQNe

The debate over eminent domain reprises the legislative battle from 2011, when the Legislature went down to its last week before narrowly approving a law stating that utilities and power-line developers can use eminent domain to condemn private property along an approved route.

Utilities asked for the law in the wake of a District Court decision that said they had to expressly show that any line was a public use before using eminent domain. They argued the decision improperly altered longstanding precedent that gave utilities such power, and that the law merely restored what had been understood.

When using eminent domain, utilities go to court to cross someone’s land, but still must negotiate a price they’ll pay the landowner for stringing a line through his or her land.

Barrett said the 2011 law was enacted primarily to help the Montana-Alberta Tie Line in north-central Montana, a merchant power line, and now that MATL is largely finished, the law shouldn’t be needed.

NorthWestern Energy has proposed another big power line in southwestern Montana, and Barrett said landowners in her district, where the line would pass, believe the law erodes their rights.

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