Tick tock, it’s time to protect private property rights
The clock is turning. Not just in this year’s legislative session, but for Missouri lawmakers to pass protections for landowners before more electric transmission projects start knocking on our state’s door.
Today, the energy sector is changing rapidly. A recent report on the future of power generation and transmission (MISO’s 2021 Transmission Expansion Plan) stated: “Indicators predict as much change in the industry over the next five years as over the past 35 years.
Missouri farmers and northern Missouri landowners are witness to this. Now, additional transmission lines that have been rumored and predicted are about to come true. Utility providers have acknowledged their intention to build several more power transmission lines across Missouri, each using power from an eminent domain.
Missouri is in the crosshairs. For nearly a decade, Missouri farmers and landowners have fought to protect private property rights against private, for-profit corporations that use the power of eminent domain without providing substantial benefit to Missourians. Simply put, some want to use our state as an energy highway to reach the lucrative East Coast power grid and profit off the backs of farmers and landowners along the way.
Members of the Missouri Farm Bureau strongly believe in the importance of property rights. With these new projects on offer, it’s time to make sure landowners are put in a fair bargaining position. All we are asking for are sensible reforms to protect farmers and landowners.
Eminent domain should only be used for genuine public purposes. We believe a project meets a clear public need if more than half of the electricity transmitted is delivered to Missouri residents. Past projects have successfully claimed to meet “public needs” by supplying only about six percent of their electricity to our state.
If a project meets a public need, landowners should be treated fairly for the involuntary seizure of their property. They should receive additional compensation for their problems and for losing land they initially did not want to sell.
In eminent domain proceedings, challenging unreasonably low bids is costly for the landowner, who owes attorneys’ fees regardless of the final value determination. Our members believe it is unfair to charge landowners with a lawyer’s bill just to dispute a low bid. Missouri should change the law so that the utility company must pay the landowner’s attorney fees if the landowner prevails in court.
In conviction cases, property values are determined by three court-appointed experts who investigate the property and calculate its fair value. Landowners deserve fair representation in these proceedings. In farmland conviction proceedings, at least one of the three experts must be a local farmer who has farmed in the county for 10 years or more.
We are not asking much here. Land is essential for the production of food, fiber and fuel. It is important for the rural way of life and the farming profession.
Maybe some on the other side of this issue are hoping that time will continue to pass so that they don’t have to deal with this issue. Not under our watch. We can have a resilient grid and affordable, reliable energy while respecting private property rights. Now is the time to enact fair laws for these new projects. Please contact your state legislators and ask them to support common sense eminent domain reform.
Garrett Hawkins is the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest agricultural organization.