Eminent Domain actions in Wyoming
It can, and is, happening here
by Pinedale Online!
December 10, 2006
Last month, Laurie Goodman, spokesperson for the Landowners Association of Wyoming, gave a presentation in Pinedale on Wyomings eminent domain laws. While she was here, we asked her if she knew of specific cases in Wyoming where eminent domain has, or is, being used to take property away from private landowners. Here is a list of examples she just sent us:
CAN IT HAPPEN IN WYOMING?
Property owners in Sheridan County were threatened with eminent domain by the local school district over the terms of the purchase of their property. Acquisition by condemnation would have cost the school district less than a fair-market negotiation. After a public outcry, the school district dropped the effort.
Private homes were condemned by Laramie County for the appraised fair market and relocation amounts, rather than replacement costs, in order to build a new county library. Had the private properties been owned by a non-profit organization, replacement values would have been required by our statutes.
After 5 years of study, the City of Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities proposed a location for a future municipal water storage facility on private lands without once notifying or working with the private landowner. The effort is currently suspended due to the outcry of private property owners.
A Campbell County couple had their valuable sub irrigated creek-bottoms condemned by a major gas company to allow the cheapest method of discharge of coal-bed methane produced water, rather than piping the water to a treatment/storage facility. During the condemnation, the company unsuccessfully sought an injunction to bar the landowner from carrying his gun on his private property near oil field workers.
A small business owner was condemned by the City of Rock Springs on behalf of the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) in order to construct a new sidewalk along the highway. While compensated the appraised value and some relocation costs, the relocation time-frames were inadequate given the economic boom in Rock Springs and the compensation did not come near the actual replacement costs incurred by the property owner, not to mention the loss of business and now higher monthly insurance fees. The DOT had the ultimate discretion over which costs to reimburse.
A couple in Albany County was sued in a pre-condemnation lawsuit by a major interstate natural gas pipeline company over a $500.00 fee requested by the landowners for access to their hayfields to obtain preliminary survey data.
A private property owner in Johnson County was condemned by an independent gas operator in order to place gathering pipelines and transmission lines in a manner that reduced corporate operation costs rather than staying within the established corridor one-half a mile away; After great litigation cost for the landowner to defend his private property rights, the company was sold, the successor operator dropped the eminent domain suit, and negotiations are underway to purchase the ranch.
The federal Department of Energy has proposed major new energy corridors throughout the state of Wyoming that are 3500 wide, eventually encompassing 424.24 acres out of every 640 acres/square mile. The federal webpage states that the effort is focused only on federal lands but in-between all federal lands in Wyoming lie private (or state) lands and a de facto decision is being made that will severely impact the future use of these private lands. The federal process allows no means to obtain constructive input from the affected private land owners.
The State of Wyoming is working to establish four new corridors for electricity transmission lines. While power companies will negotiate for the damage to the impacted private lands, the ultimate powers of eminent domain often skew the good faith negotiations and the ultimate amounts of compensation.
Legislation is in the works for the 2007 Wyoming session which may change some of Wyoming's eminent domain laws.
Landowners Association of Wyoming, www.wyominglandowners.org
2006 Interim Committees
2006 Wyoming Eminent Domain Revisions, SF0103 (6 page PDF)