LAW applaud review of DM&E new rail line
Eminent Domain in Wyoming
December 23, 2006
Editor's Note: Below is a reprint of a news release from the Landowners Association of Wyoming (LAW) on a recent development on a possible eminent domain action in eastern Wyoming by the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Corporation for the purpose of transport of Powder River Basin coal to eastern markets. DM&E is based out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Wyoming Landowners Applaud Investigations into DM&E new rail-line
By the Landowners Association of Wyoming (LAW)
Contact: Laurie Goodman, Landowners Association of Wyoming
Wyoming landowners in Weston and Campbell County applauded the efforts of Congressmen to seek oversight hearings on the proposed $2.3 billion federal loan guarantee that has been requested by DM&E Railroad to finance construction of a new rail spur to deliver Wyoming Powder River Basin coal. “We have been fighting this crazy proposal for several years now. Maybe this will help people see we’re not just a bunch of NIMBYs. DM&E can condemn our private lands even though federal studies indicate that the project would result in miniscule changes in Powder River Basin coal production, consumption and coal fired energy generation. And they haven’t even been able to attract any private financing. Where’s the public benefit in that?” asked Nancy Darnell, one of 28 ranchers in Wyoming who would have their ranches dissected to accommodate this new rail line.
DM&E is a small regional railroad, operating mainly in South Dakota and Minnesota. Several years ago, its aggressive new president announced plans to expand a rail line and make it a new progressive railroad company. It set its sights on the lucrative market of shipping Wyoming’s Powder River Basin coal to utilities in the Midwest. “The problem”, said Joe Simmons of Newcastle, “is that the federal government has found that there is already excess capacity on the existing rail-lines operated by UP and BN. While DM&E is pursuing a high stakes business game to get in on that market, they’re total success depends on using land that doesn’t belong to them. It belongs to me and my neighbors and we’re already using it to provide food and fiber for this country.”
Joe and several of his neighbors have joined with private property owners across the state to seek legislative change to provide greater protections for their private property rights. Frankie Addington, Secretary of the Landowners Association of Wyoming (LAW) and a private property owner in Converse County, expressed complete astonishment when the Petroleum Association of Wyoming testified before a legislative committee that, “Condemnations … to minimize project costs, simplify state or federal permitting requirements, or to improve the ease and convenience of access for the condemnor … are all reasons why a condemnor would file proceedings.” After watching her neighbors go through the problems with DM&E, and then reading this by the Petroleum Association, “maybe we’ve got a much bigger problem here than people think”, she commented.
Chad Sears left his home in Newcastle to serve in the military and then returned with his new wife to take on the family’s ranch. He’s joined landowners, cities and the Mayo Clinic to fight the DM&E railroad ever since. “Some people say I just want the new railroad to go on someone else’s land. That’s not true. The truth is – it’s a railroad with one of the worst safety records in the industry. It’s such a shaky project it can’t even get private financing. And once a federal permit is issued, our state statutes prohibit private landowners who’s lands could be condemned from seeking a judicial review of the public benefit or necessity – even though the federal permit didn’t address these issues -- which are supposed to be the criteria to take another person's land. Who’s minding the store here?”
LAW is advocating for changes in the upcoming legislative session that would apply to any entity that wants to condemn someone else’s land, not just a railroad. They believe all private property owners in both rural and urban locations should be guaranteed early notice and joint planning of activities that will use their lands; lease payments for the ongoing use of their lands by another profit-making entity; full replacement costs for homeowners who are condemned; and jury trials for projects that currently have no public or regulatory oversight. “It’s a matter of fairness,” said Addington.