Eminent Domain Reforms Inch Forward

by Robin EH. Bagley

One of the bright spots in this year’s legislative session have been the positive changes to the state’s eminent domain laws. Both HB 1134 and HB 1153 were collaboratively worked on by different stakeholders, including Dakota Rural Action, the utilities, the SD Stockgrowers’ Association, and landowners who have been affected by eminent domain.

HB 1134, an act to provide for access to certain property for the purpose of making surveys, clarifies what happens when a utility does not receive permission to enter someone’s land, and in the long-run, it helps to avoid lawsuits. Bret Clanton, a landowner in Harding County, testified in favor of the bill during the House Judiciary Committee hearing, explaining that he was drug into the court system by TransCanada over survey issues with the Keystone XL pipeline, and that had 1134 been in effect prior to that confrontation, it would have more easily dealt with. Sabrina King with DRA and Jeremiah Murphy with the Stockgrowers testified that HB 1134 brings clarity and order to the process.

HB 1153, reform eminent domain by mediation, was called “the most harmless bill of the session and might be also the most helpful” by Brett Koenecke of the SD Utilities Companies during the hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. The bill clarifies that eminent domain cases can be settled by mediation. Again, this is a bill which seeks to reform the eminent domain process so that it doesn’t immediately end up in the court system. Clanton said that he welcomed the bill, and that it was good to make it possible for the two sides (in an eminent domain dispute) to find consensus.

These two bills represent a change in how both parties in eminent domain situations can react and move forward. Hopefully these changes will serve to make the process less contentious, and give landowners some other options rather than being drug into court. Both bills have passed the legislature and will become law later this year.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: