Landowners’ Rights, Power Lines and Pipelines
Question for today: Will landowners whose property is subject to eminent domain learn about their rights before the utility land acquisition folks come with their small checkbooks and large vats of snake oil to make a first offer?
The good news is that, this fall, in the CapX2020 Brookings high voltage power line case ,the Public Utilities Commission ordered that the utilities provide each landowner with a Fact Sheet explaining their rights at the time of the utilities’ first contact with the land owner. This is the first such notice ever required by the Commission and is particularly valuable because the Minnesota Legislature in the 2010 session just adopted laws requiring utilities to negotiate in good faith, provide appraisals and provide fair compensation when they take property rights for power lines and pipelines.
But, nothing is ever simple. The Commission ordered staff at the Office of Energy Security (OES) to prepare the fact sheet. Their draft, however well-intentioned it might have been, was six very confusing pages. You can see it here if you would like. OES Landowner Fact Sheet. Or you can take my word that it was impenetrable.
I drafted and submitted a revised Landowner Fact Sheet, trying to keep as much of the tone and text from the OES as I could while simplifying and clarifying what landowners could expect and what their rights might be. My alternative proposal is attached here. .
If you care about making sure that landowners can actually understand their rights when they receive notice, feel free to join the conversation and send the Commission a letter or email asking that they adopt my revised 11/5/10 version of the Landowners Rights Fact Sheet in order to provide more effective notice to the farmers and home owners along power lines and pipelines. The address is Dr. Burl W. Haar, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, 350 Metro Square Building, 121 Seventh Place East, St. Paul, MN 55101, email: burl haar@state. mn.us. Make sure to say that your comment refers to Landowner Rights Notice and that it is for Docket 08-1474. Feel free to add your own thoughts and perspectives as well.