Eminent Domain Bill Moves Out of Committee With Changes, Sparks Controversy

March 12, 2019

 

One of two bills aimed at penalizing companies that low balling landowners during eminent domain negotiations has made it out of committee and could come before a full vote of the Senate by the end of this week.

Senate Bill 421, along with House Bill 991, would establish minimum information for easement contracts that includes size and number of pipelines, and would require companies to hold public meetings over eminent domain issues within the county in which they’re planning to build.

HB 991 has been referred to the House Land and Resource Management Committee.

On Monday, a substituted version of SB 421 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst was reported out of the Senate State Affairs committee by an 8-0 vote..

Those representing possible plaintiffs in eminent domain disputes expressed some satisfaction with changes that were made in the bill during the committee process.

Texas Farm Bureau Associate Legislative Director Marissa Patton said,“The amended bill still provides additional protections and transparency in the state’s eminent domain process.”

“It addresses standard protections in easement terms, a requirement for property owner meetings and making a fair offer to property owners,” she said at the TFB website.

But Texas Association of Oil and Gas (TXOGA) President Todd Staples on Tuesday called for the defeat of the revised bill because of committee changes — and was joined by Texas Pipeline Association President Thure Cannon for a letter to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and all 31 state Senate members, outlining what they believe to be “fatal flaws” in the compromise bill, now called CSSB 421.

Staples said “CSSB 421 is wrong for Texas because the legislation will increase litigation, slow infrastructure development and ultimately stifle state and local tax revenue.”

“We are confident that it is possible to balance property owners’ rights with responsible infrastructure development.

“CSSB 421 is not the answer and we are urging defeat of the measure to make way for a proposal that will benefit all Texans.”

He cited added right-of-way regulations now in the bill that effectively will increase litigation and have a negative impact on infrastructure, not just in the energy fields but all over.

Delays in building new oil and gas pipelines because of the measures called for in the bill will slow down critical pipeline infrastructure and therefore would likely cause cost increases in building such lines, affecting to costs of oil and gas transportation that would translate into decreased income for entities that rely on the industry, such as businesses, schools receiving tax money and homes, which Staples said would see increases in the costs of heating and cooling.