Keystone XL pipeline is issue of property rights for some ranchers

The Keystone XL pipeline has reignited the emotional issue of eminent domain — the taking of private property for public use — all along its proposed route.

The vast majority of landowners have signed agreements with TransCanada, the pipeline owner. But where necessary, the Calgary, Alberta-based company is busy going to state courts to exercise eminent domain and lining up rights to cross properties throughout the Great Plains — even though the State Department and Obama administration still are weighing whether to give TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline a permit to cross the U.S.-Canadian border.

People across the United States have been forced to make way for power lines, sidewalks, telephone poles, pipelines and other projects. In a 2005 case, the Supreme Court in a 5-to-4 ruling said that local governments could even force property owners to sell out to make way for private economic developments if officials felt that it would benefit the public.

The case, Kelo v. City of New London, became a rallying point for conservatives and others who said the ruling violated the Fifth Amendment prohibition against the taking of property except for “public use.” In a dissenting opinion, then-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the ruling meant that the “specter of condemnation hangs over all property.”

Ironically, many conservative critics of that case, including Deb Fischer, Nebraska’s Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, support the Keystone XL pipeline. They say that it will serve the public good by increasing U.S. oil supplies and easing national security concerns.


Hmm… I’ve got to admit I find the cases entirely different and not just on grounds of energy security, which is a global issue. I’m assuming the pipeline will be similar to Australia’s right of way easements. If the eminent domain issue was going to go through the rancher’s house then I’d be against it but they are not, it’s a buried pipeline traversing his land, which, when rehabilitated will still grow grazable pasture. They are not taking his land away nor destroying his home, although there is a case about altering amenity, for which he will be compensated. I’m afraid this time I’m not automatically pro-landholder.

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One response to “Keystone XL pipeline is issue of property rights for some ranchers

  1. In the 1970’s a natural gas pipeline was built from the Powder River Basin fields in Wy to Colorado. The pipeline ran through my father-in-law’s ranch. Despite contrary advice from all of his neighbors, he signed an agreement with the pipline. It took them about two weeks to palce the pipeline across his property and they left every fence and trail intact until the last moment, replacing fences and covering trails as soon as the line was in place. Everything was restored and the disturbed soil reseeded immedaitely. One year later there was only a slight scar left to mark the line. He never lost anything and his ranch suffered no damage. Most of this opposition is based on hysteria.

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