A Holt County resident recently was quoted in a newspaper article that she felt like she had received a “gut punch” recently when she was officially notified that a legal procedure known as eminent domain was being used to obtain a right of way across her farm for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
Given that Jeanne Crumly is opposed to the proposed TC Energy pipeline, we can appreciate the sentiment. But she and others who have decided not to negotiate with the company for a right of way shouldn’t have been surprised that this was coming.
Court records indicate that TC Energy, formerly TransCanada, has filed at least 90 lawsuits since Sept. 20 asking courts across Nebraska to assign appraisers to determine the cost of obtaining right of way for the 36-inch crude oil pipeline. That’s the first step in obtaining right of way via eminent domain, the legal process that allows the taking of property for public purposes.
A ruling by the Nebraska Supreme Court recently approved a route across Nebraska and cleared the way to begin the eminent domain process. The $8 billion pipeline will carry thick crude oil produced from the tar sands region of Canada across three states — Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska — before linking up with an existing pipeline that transports oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
There’s no question that eminent domain is not a palatable option when it is put into play, but it can be a necessary one to allow for projects in the public interest. Some would disagree that the pipeline meets that definition, but many others understand the benefits to be derived from creating the oil project.
The legal taking of personal property isn’t pleasant, but there are several things to remember.
In this case, the right of way being sought doesn’t preclude landowners from still farming or making use of their property. Land isn’t being ceded to anyone else; just a right of way is being granted.
In addition, TC Energy has worked diligently to negotiate fair — some would call them generous — voluntary agreements with landowners to provide the right of way.
In Montana and South Dakota, for example, 99 percent of the landowners along the proposed pipeline route agreed to such voluntary agreements. The majority of Nebraska landowners have, too.
It wouldn’t surprise us if opponents of the project try to use Nebraskans’ inherent dislike of eminent domain as a way to spur more opposition or roadblocks to the pipeline project. Let’s hope that effort isn’t successful.