Eminent Domain Issues in South Dakota
TransCanada faces another obstacle in building the 1,660 mile Keystone XL pipeline… eminent domain. On January 25, Agrus Leader reported that several landowners in South Dakota are putting up a fight for their land and TransCanada is not taking no for an answer.
TransCanada’s most recent quarterly report claims they have now reached easement agreements with 53 percent of the landowners in South Dakota. However, negotiations have taken a turn for the worse with 13 other landowners in the area.
The company is trying to condemn land owned by 13 others; the lawsuits in Jones, Tripp, Haakon, Meade, Perkins and Harding counties date from late September to January.
TransCanada spokeswoman Shawn Howard said the company files eminent domain lawsuits only as a last resort, always pays market rate or better and seeks only an easement, not possession of the land. She noted that the company has reached easement agreements with “98, 99 percent of landowners” along the route, which shows the amount of care they’ve taken to be fair.
While TransCanada believes it is handing the situation correctly, many landowners believe this another way for the company to flex its corporate muscles.
The lawsuits come at a time of growing opposition to the 1,660-mile pipeline, which would carry oil from tar sands fields in Alberta, Canada, and pass through 314 miles of South Dakota terrain on its way to terminals on the Gulf Coast. Environmentalists have joined landowners to lobby against the project all the way down the route, from Montana to Texas.
The 13 South Dakota landowners are not the only ones who strongly oppose the pipeline running through their land.
The antipathy has been especially fierce in Nebraska, where the line would cross the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region and the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides irrigation and drinking water to eight states. Nebraskans have protested outside the statehouse, its congressional leaders have petitioned the U.S. State Department on the matter and a state legislator has introduced a bill that would require oil companies to go through a lengthy application process before they could build pipelines in the state.
TransCanada is awaiting approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. The State Department could make a decision within weeks.