Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Eminent Domain, Landownership and Transmission Line Structures

As wind energy businesses are still knocking on doors to pursue potential wind farm investment opportunities, the next knock on your door might be from a company trying to obtain a utility easement for wind power transmission lines and structures.

Future wind farm projects, located in the north and south central region of the U.S., need to link up to the national electric grid in order to supply wind power to major energy markets east of the Mississippi River.

As wind power corridors from western states lobby for transmission line projects, a National Electric Grid Expansion Plan is starting to unfold for the eastern U.S.

It is projected that over 17,000 to 22,000 miles of newly built transmission lines will cross the eastern half of the country within the next 3 to 5 years.

As we speak, regional planners are mapping out the routes on where to run these large power lines (at the cost of over one million dollars per mile to install).

However, the problems associated with these types of utility easements (rights-of-way) crossing private land for public purpose are bringing to light the battle over land rights verses eminent domain.

Texas is a prime example - as major area transmission projects for new wind are being planned to carry the electricity to the marketplace. A total of 2,334 miles of transmission lines, totaling 56,581 acres of land, are needed to carry an additional 18,456 Megawatts of wind power across parts of the state.

Whether you are for or against utility easements, you need to know how to negotiate a deal or how to try to legally fight it in court.

The goal of a company utility agent is to go out and capture the right to use land for the placement of high-powered electrical energy structures and/or lines.

Agents will try to negotiate a simple lease agreement by initially offering some type of payment for land use that is normally priced under fair market value.

If that doesn’t work, the company will exercise their right to pursue eminent domain actions through the condemnation of your property as part of the legal process.

There are a lot of questions about proposed utility easement rights-of-way for public purposes.

Far too many landowners tend focus on the amount of the payment and not the property rights being taken for that payment.

Inevitably, existing wind farm leases & proposed utility easement conflicts are going to cause huge legal issues.

Who will get the transmission line royalty payments if the project crosses leased land under the authority of the wind developer - the property owner or the developer?


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