Eminent domain is the power of the government to take privately owned land—in exchange for compensation at fair market value—for government project such as highways, railroads, parks, etc. In some cases, the land can be taken on behalf of a third-party for economic development. Property taken for the latter reason is often the cause for real estate disputes.
Two lawsuits have been filed by landowners in Texas courts regarding how eminent domain has been exercised in regard to the Keystone pipeline project; both have been dismissed in recent months. The pipeline is an interstate project that spans more than 2,000 miles to connect the Texas gulf with Canada’s oil-sand mines making it possible to transport oil from third-party shippers. The landowners argued that the builder should not have been qualified to use the power of eminent domain to acquire the property needed for the project. Thus far, the courts have not ruled in favor of the landowners. The woman behind the most recent lawsuit doesn’t plan to give up, however. She plans to take the case to the Texas Supreme Court and is starting a public awareness campaign aimed at citizens and legislators alike.
While the outcome of this case could come too late to help other landowners affected by the Keystone project, which is nearly complete in southern Texas, it could set a precedent for the qualification of other companies who want to take residential or commercial real estate for development purposes. Owners who are faced with real estate disputes of any kind could benefit from hiring an attorney to fight for their legal rights.
Source: Dallas Observer, “A Texas Landowner's Quest to Stop the Keystone Pipeline Has Been Killed by the Courts,” Brantley Hargrove, August 28, 2013.