I’m astounded of the number of people who are talking about last week’s Supreme Court eminent domain decision in Kelo v. New London. Can it be that people are finally catching on — that erosion of our constitutional rights is being noticed? In alpha order, here’s Betsy Buckheit’s thoughts, Buckheit #2, and Bruce Moreland, from the Northfield area.

Here’s the decision, Kelo, et al. v. City of New London, et al. It’s long but well worth the read.

The glimmer that jumped out at me is set out in today’s STrib too:

The court’s opinion basically invited state legislatures across the county to restrict the broad power of eminent domain that exists under current law.

Here’s what Ralph Nader had to say about it, thanks to Barbara Vaile for sending it around, it’s posted on U.S. Newswire:

Statement of Ralph Nader on Supreme Court Eminent Domain

6/23/2005 6:53:00 PM

To: National Desk

Contact: Ralph Nader, 202-387-8030

WASHINGTON, June 23 /U.S. Newswire/ — Following is a statement of Ralph Nader on the Supreme Court eminent domain:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v City of New London mocks common sense, tarnishes constitutional law and is an affront to fundamental fairness.

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution permits government to seize private property for a “public use,” such as a highway, railroad, or military facility, provided it gives the owner “just compensation.” Many state constitutions have similar provisions. But in modern times it has become common for the government, usually at the state or local level, to seize property and transfer it to another private party rather than maintaining it for public use.

Hundreds of abuses of eminent domain have occurred during the last few decades, with municipalities playing reverse Robin Hood? taking from ordinary citizens and giving to powerful individual developers or corporations. In many cases, the alleged public benefit is a transparent cover for what amounts to legalized theft.

With today’s decision, the Court has abdicated its role as guardian of the Constitution and individual rights. This decision authorizes courts across the country to allow self- defining misuses of “public use” and “public benefit” requirements. State courts, however, remain free to impose more reasonable restraints on government taking of individual property.

For a more detailed discussion of this topic see: Ralph Nader & Alan Hirsch, “Making Eminent Domain Humane,” 49 Villanova Law Review 207 (2004).

For More information contact: Ralph Nader 202-387-8030

Burton Hanson had a few things to say about this too today.

Check Minnesota’s Walser July, 2001 appellate case, and April, 2002 MN Supreme Court case, where land was taken in Richfield for Best Buy, at 494 and Penn (I can remember when that was a farm!). Last time I drove by, there as a big “for lease” sign… hmmmmm…

Who cares about eminent domain? Look at that Mesaba bill, lines 41.8-41.14, where a private company was granted eminent domain to build a power plant we don’t need, where a legislative mandate was required for a power purchase agreement because there’s no market for electricity. Eminent domain is just one of the unprecedented perks for this for-profit corporation that is NOT a public service corporation. Just who is benefitting? Where’s the public purpose?

Here’s the Mesaba language:

40.12 ARTICLE 4
40.15 Subdivision 1. [DEFINITION.] For the purposes of this
40.16 section, the term “innovative energy project” means a proposed
40.17 energy generation facility or group of facilities which may be
40.18 located on up to three sites:
40.19 (1) that makes use of an innovative generation technology
40.20 utilizing coal as a primary fuel in a highly efficient
40.21 combined-cycle configuration with significantly reduced sulfur
40.22 dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate, and mercury emissions from
40.23 those of traditional technologies;
40.24 (2) that the project developer or owner certifies is a
40.25 project capable of offering a long-term supply contract at a
40.26 hedged, predictable cost; and
40.27 (3) that is designated by the commissioner of the iron
40.28 range resources and rehabilitation board as a project that is
40.29 located in the taconite tax relief area on a site that has
40.30 substantial real property with adequate infrastructure to
40.31 support new or expanded development and that has received prior
40.32 financial and other support from the board.
40.33 Subd. 2. [REGULATORY INCENTIVES.] (a) An innovative energy
40.34 project:
40.35 (1) is exempted from the requirements for a certificate of
40.36 need under Minnesota Statutes, section 216B.243, for the
41.1 generation facilities, and transmission infrastructure
41.2 associated with the generation facilities, but is subject to all
41.3 applicable environmental review and permitting procedures of
41.4 Minnesota Statutes, sections 116C.51 to 116C.69;
41.5 (2) once permitted and constructed, is eligible to increase
41.6 the capacity of the associated transmission facilities without
41.7 additional state review upon filing notice with the commission;
41.8 (3) has the power of eminent domain, which shall be limited
41.9 to the sites and routes approved by the environmental quality
41.10 board for the project facilities. The project shall be
41.11 considered a utility as defined in Minnesota Statutes, section
41.12 116C.52, subdivision 10, for the limited purpose of Minnesota
41.13 Statutes, section 116C.63. The project shall report any intent
41.14 to exercise eminent domain authority to the board;
41.15 (4) shall qualify as a “clean energy technology” as defined
41.16 in section 216B.1693;
41.17 (5) shall, prior to the approval by the commission of any
41.18 arrangement to build or expand a fossil-fuel-fired generation
41.19 facility, or to enter into an agreement to purchase capacity or
41.20 energy from such a facility for a term exceeding five years, be
41.21 considered as a supply option for the generation facility, and
41.22 the commission shall ensure such consideration and take any
41.23 action with respect to such supply proposal that it deems to be
41.24 in the best interest of ratepayers;
41.25 (6) shall make a good faith effort to secure funding from
41.26 the United States Department of Energy and the United States
41.27 Department of Agriculture to conduct a demonstration project at
41.28 the facility for either geologic or terrestrial carbon
41.29 sequestration projects to achieve reductions in facility
41.30 emissions or carbon dioxide;
41.31 (7) shall be entitled to enter into a contract with a
41.32 public utility that owns a nuclear generation facility in the
41.33 state to provide 450 megawatts of baseload capacity and energy
41.34 under a long-term contract, subject to the approval of the terms
41.35 and conditions of the contract by the commission. The
41.36 commission may approve, disapprove, amend, or modify the
42.1 contract in making its public interest determination, taking
42.2 into consideration the project’s economic development benefits
42.3 to the state; the use of abundant domestic fuel sources; the
42.4 stability of the price of the output from the project; the
42.5 project’s potential to contribute to a transition to hydrogen as
42.6 a fuel resource; and the emission reductions achieved compared
42.7 to other solid fuel baseload technologies; and
42.8 (8) shall be eligible for a grant from the renewable
42.9 development account, subject to the approval of the entity
42.10 administering that account, of $2,000,000 a year for five years
42.11 for development and engineering costs, including those costs
42.12 related to mercury removal technology; thermal efficiency
42.13 optimization and emission minimization; environmental impact
42.14 statement preparation and licensing; development of hydrogen
42.15 production capabilities; and fuel cell development and
42.16 utilization.
42.17 (b) This subdivision does not apply to nor affect a
42.18 proposal to add utility-owned resources that is pending on the
42.19 date of enactment of this act before the public utilities
42.20 commission or to competitive bid solicitations to provide
42.21 capacity or energy that is scheduled to be online by December
42.22 31, 2006.
42.23 Sec. 2. [EFFECTIVE DATE.]
42.24 This article is effective the day following final enactment.

From the STrib today, New Ruling Means No Property Is Safe:

The court’s opinion basically invited state legislatures across the county to restrict the broad power of eminent domain that exists under current law.

The Minnesota Legislature should give citizens the right to challenge a project’s “public purpose” in court; it should set up a system to give citizens back their attorneys’ fees if their challenge is successful; and private property owners should be adequately compensated for these takings if they occur.

Minnesotans deserve protection from government run amok. The Legislature should pass eminent domain reform now.

Landowners are overdue for a change in compensation that addresses the massive profits that the recipients reap as a result of taking land. Sen. Vickerman has been working on it, and here’s SF 462, a work in progress. Here’s something to talk about while you’re “sitting in.”

I’ve got some specifics thoughts on this, but of course my notes are at home, so later… and sorry about that title, but I’ve still got last week’s Al Sicherman’s “it’s waning all over the world” going through my brain… touche!

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