Eminent Domain

A Citizen’s Reflection on Eminent Domain & the Domestic Energy Cartel

Eminent domain is only abstract until it lands on your doorstep.  Essentially, it means that someone wants your property, and the government helps them take it.  It means your property will be used to make money for a corporation — not for you.

There are different forms of “taking,” but even if you manage to “keep” title to your property (as in our case), your use of it will be severely restricted.  And you will continue to pay taxes on property you can no longer use.

It amounts to legal plunder under the badge of government.  Ultimately, power corrupts; and the power of eminent domain in the hands of government — which is transferred to a business — creates a sense of entitlement; and it creates an atmosphere ripe for abuse.

Because it held the power of eminent domain, Spectra Energy’s alleged negotiations with property owners were never on a level playing field. The company claims publicly that it is “desperate” to negotiate with landowners. The only matter the company was desperate about was to seize property rights – and quickly.

Once it had “tentative” approval from FERC for the “proposed” gas storage field, it quickly sold the storage space to customers and bragged about it in a June 2007 press release.

The company publicly promised to have the storage field up and running by April 2009.  So eminent domain and its sense of entitlement led Spectra Energy to a series of actions that now threaten the timetable of a proposed project. The threat to that timetable and the grassroots resistance of property owners, will likely cost them money and reputation.

Thus the energy project that is really an entitlement project is now leaving a vapor trail of bad decisions and inappropriate actions. All of this has put landowners in a face-off with the equivalent of a domestic energy cartel between Spectra Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, because the power of eminent domain allows them to control pricing and competition. By definition, that is a cartel.