One of the most controversial bills coming up will be House Bill 198 on eminent domain. The gist of it is, should public utilities be able to purchase right-of-way or easements on your land, or even purchase your land, regardless of you desires. At first blush, most of us say absolutely no way! It is our land and we have a right to keep it and control it. Then there is the constitution…Montana’s constitution allows public utilities to use eminent domain to extend utility lines, natural gas, and petroleum lines for the greater good of Montana…Now, that doesn’t sound like property owners have rights…or does it…If the utility company claims eminent domain, they must pay the owner fair market value of the property, right-of-way, or easement. You might say, ‘well not in my back yard’, but then, if not yours, who’s? Should you have more right than someone else? Should the good of Montanans be held above the desires of an individual?
We will be dealing with this issue on the House Floor today, where it is facing a floor vote. It is an emotionally charged issue. I have been studying this for a lot of hours, and promise that there is not an easy answer. Keep watching and please let me know what you think! rlb