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The Laws of Eminent Domain

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Posted:
22 December 1999

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 08:29:23 -0600 (CST)
From: "Roy L. Beavers" <rbeavers@llion.org>
To: emfguru <rbeavers@llion.org>
Subject: Eminent Domain (Latham)

........Many thanks to Linda for the following valuable item..... It deserves WIDE circulation!!!......

Let me mention what I have learned about eminent domain:
 


In most cases -- if you look into it in your state (probably should be done by a lawyer) -- I predict that you will find that the state simply OPTED OUT of the whole process ... and gave 'carte blanch' control over that process to the utilities.....!!!

That was the result of the 1920s-1930s "utility dominance" period of history when most of this law was created.....  The utility lobbies were powerful and, generally, unchallenged.  (That was also before the creation of public utility commissions that are supposed to "oversee" the activities of corporate monopolies.  Doesn't matter much -- these so-called "public" or "corporation" utility commissions have turned out to be very "friendly" to the companies they are supposed to be regulating!! In some cases, the state law that created the commissions also established the rules for the use of eminent domain -- again, under that heavily industry-favored lobbying environment.)

However you cut it, the bottom line is that ... the public got screwed again!!!

Clearly, one of the worst aspects of 'eminent domain' as it is being practiced in the U.S. today ... is that it has become another one of those "legal" 'tools' for the powerful (private industry) to use to exploit the less powerful -- you!!!  In its original concept it was not intended to serve "private interests" -- it was intended to serve PUBLIC interest....

Of course, the utility ALWAYS claims that it is acting in the public interest.  But that claim -- if it is questioned at all -- never gets very serious scrutiny....  The STATE has opted out ... and YOU, the property owner, are holding the bag!!!!

Cheerio....

Roy Beavers (EMFguru)
roy@emfguru.com

It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness

People are more important than profits!!


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 08:36:44 -0500
From: Linda Statham <statham@mindspring.com>
To: Roy Beavers <rbeavers@llion.org>
Subject: Fw: Eminent Domain

----- Original Message -----
From: Linda Statham

Sent: Wednesday, December 22, 1999 8:33 AM
Subject: Eminent Domain

To the Supporters of the Little River Valley Association: If you have concerns about the law of Eminent Domain, you will be interested in reading the letter below.

21 December 1999

Dear CCAPP Members,

On the evening of Dec. 21 1999, Georgia State Representative Garland Pinholster was good enough to spend his evening listening to and discussing our concerns regarding the power transmission line and the McGrau-Ford substation.  Although he could obviously not make any commitments to us, he did say that he thought our situation merited review in the Georgia State Houses.  He said he would discuss review of Georgia's law of Eminent Domain with members of the Judiciary Committee to determine if there was any level of support for change.  We have enclosed a copy of the thoughts we prepared for Representative Pinholster and Senator Stephens for your information.

The Georgia legislative session begins in the second week of January and lasts for forty working days.  If we are to be successful in advancing any of these ideas, our Georgia congressional delegation needs to hear from us.  Please take time to write or call your Representative or Senator and let them know if this is important to you.  Please share this information with your friends and neighbors.

Sincerely, Larry Shaffett President, CCAPP, Inc.


Cherokee Citizens Against Power Poles
CCAPP, Inc. - 10 Twin Ridges
Ball Ground, GA 30107
21 December 1999

The Honorable Representative Garland Pinholster
The Honorable Senator Bill Stephens,

Dear Representative Pinholster and Senator Stephens,

The law of Eminent Domain in Georgia is longstanding. It was extended to the electrical utility industry during the Roosevelt presidency for the purpose of bringing much needed electrical power to rural Georgia. It is now being misused by the electrical industry for commercial gain. Regulatory changes are in order for the good of the citizens of Georgia.

There is no argument that Eminent Domain is still a just and needed legal tool; as good for the whole must outweigh the good for the individual.  There is no argument that public utilities should have this right.  What is at issue is the degree to which the public utility should be able to exercise this right and for what purpose.

This year, Georgia Power is constructing a high voltage power line through the Clayton Community and building a new one-hundred sixty acre power substation in Ball Ground, on what is today a wildlife preserve. Georgia Power is building this through rural country homes that are habitat for the citizenry, federally protected endangered species, and culturally significant lands.  Georgia Power is doing this not to bring electricity to rural Georgia, but rather to build part of a nationwide power grid so it can buy inexpensive power in the Midwest and sell it to power starved Florida.  It is not right that the public utility companies should be able to use an outdated law to take private property purely for their own gain. This is why the Georgia State Legislature needs to take action in its calendar year 2000 session to amend the state law of Eminent Domain as it relates to public utilities.

There is a constitutional question to be answered.  The power line Georgia Power is forcing through the Clayton Community is a vehicle of interstate commerce.  Regulation of interstate commerce is a right which the Federal Government has reserved to itself.  By using Georgia's state law to force its will, Georgia Power may well be violating federally protected constitutional rights.

Georgia Power not only exceeds its right but abuses it.  We can document many instances of Georgia Power's  representatives misleading and intimidating property owners.  We would request public hearing on the tactics Georgia Power uses to obtain the property is seeks from our neighbors.

As stated earlier, we are not so unrealistic as to request the Georgia State Legislature to eliminate Eminent Domain.  We know that will not happen.  We do however, believe that a regulation of powers is in order and would suggest some combination of the following ideas to properly balance power between public utilities and property owners:

1 - Property should not be taken by Eminent Domain for the purpose of interstate commerce.  If property is needed "for profit," it should be taken by free market negotiations.  Other states have included this in their law of Eminent Domain, i.e., Mississippi.

2 - If Georgia allows Eminent Domain by utility companies for interstate commerce, it should require royalty payments instead of a one time price. In our case, Georgia Power is taking property today that it does not even plan to use until 2005.  It will condemn our property at 1999 rates, use it in 2005 and forever thereafter, by paying the 1999 fair market value as Georgia Power appraises it. If they must take our property for purely profit reasons, the landholder should benefit from the taking as long as Georgia Power does.

3 - The law regarding consequential damages is badly flawed.  As it is currently written, landholders who have property taken are entitled to "fair market value" of land taken and damages to the parcel remaining. Landowners immediately adjacent to new power lines have no claim.  It is inconceivable that land up to the easement or  property line can be damaged by the aesthetics, pollution and health risks of a power line, however, land immediately adjoining a new power line can have no claim.  This allows the power companies to run along property lines and degrade parcels on both sides but only have the obligation to deal with one property owner.

4 - Our Georgia laws regarding the environment and public disclosure also need to be re-evaluated as they relate to the public utilities.  Today, if Cherokee County wants to build a road, they are required to do environmental impact studies and make public their plans.  The utility companies have far less required of them.  There are no open access laws that require Georgia Power to disclose plans to the public or an equal requirement to protect the environment, even though it has been given the same right to take property.

5 - The Public Service Commission could be empowered to provide neutral third party intervention.  An impartial third party investigator could be empowered to decide such issues as; 1) are environmental studies necessary, 2) are the power lines needed for local power consumption, or 3) are there existing rights-of-ways or alternative paths that could be used.

6 -  Also to be considered is an issue we locally describe as "malignancy."  It appears that when a  utility company takes a right-of-way, adjacent property becomes expendable and can be taken for less than its real value because the property value has already been degraded by the original line. This should be prevented by some automatic escalation of adjoining property if it is latter taken.

7 - Alternative power sources for industrial facilities/complexes should be encouraged.  If a new industrial park is proposed, a small gas fired electrical power generating facility should be included.  This would reduce the need for power transmission lines and allow that facility to resell power to the public utilities in less than peek need periods.

8 - Citizen's personal residences should be awarded some degree of sanctity.  Where it is necessary to put a high voltage power line within three-hundred yards of an principal residence, the homeowner's should have the option of selling the entire property at fair market value to the utility company.  By so doing; citizens would not be forced to be exposed to the negative effects of living under a power line unless they chose to do so.

There needs to be a leveling of the field.  Today, Georgia Power has virtually unlimited financing as it operates a monopoly with government sanction.  It can do whatever it wills on a cost plus basis while property owners are on their own.  If Georgia Power elects to take my property, their expense for my property, their attorneys, their lobbyist, their public relations campaigns, their underhanded property acquisition flunkies, everything they do is passed onto the consumer by consent of the Public Utilities Commission.  The property owner, on the other hand, cannot even get recovery of the legal expense required to defend their land.

We know this will be a difficult battle.  Georgia Power will have a dozen full time lobbyist for every hour the affected citizens can expend. We believe, however, that the weight of right has some strength.  We would ask your consideration to hold senate and house hearings this year to reduce the electrical industry's hold on Georgia property owners.

Sincerely,
Lawrence E. Shaffett

President, CCAPP, Inc.
Diane Shaffett
David Anderson
Vice-President, CCAPP, Inc.
Leslie Anderson

cc: Members of the Georgia Public Service Commission



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