The group of Iowans demonstrating against the Bakken oil pipeline are putting up a last-ditch effort (sorry, couldn’t resist) with their non-violent protest. But I have a feeling the only real chance they have of stopping the construction relies on their challenge of the state’s use of eminent domain to obtain land for it. I wanted to dig into this issue (I can’t stop) of eminent domain a bit more. All I really knew is that property owners are entitled to “just compensation” and that the property should be for public use. I was curious how the utilities board can use eminent domain for a pipeline that doesn’t seem to have any direct benefit to the people of Iowa other than some temporary jobs and future tax revenue.
I searched the ICPL catalog for magazine articles to find out more. These articles are drawn from one of our online research sources called the EbscoHost Magazine Index, which encompasses multiple databases that cover a wide range of topics and which contain full-text articles, citations, and abstracts from sources such as newspapers, periodicals and newswires. While you can search right from our catalog, if you use the link from our online research page, you get a more complete interface with lots of options for narrowing your search including source (magazines, newspapers, academic articles etc), publication date and secondary subjects (property rights, land use, judgements …).
Using this resource I was able to gain quite a bit more understanding about some of the key court cases, issues and even terminology surrounding this topic. One interesting factor that I learned is that there is a lot of murk around what is considered a “taking”. It does not necessarily involve the purchase of land, nor does it even necessarily mean physical property. It can revolve around the extent to which government regulation of private property reduces it’s value. Or even the extent that property adjacent or nearby the taken property is reduced. Another big question is what constitutes “public use”. Many of the articles I read referred to the state of disarray in “takings clause jurisprudence”. I got the impression that the courts generally have been reluctant to sort out many of these issues, generally deferring to elected officials. There are quite a few cases where land has been seized by local governments just to be sold to private developers or given to corporations.
Here are a few interesting articles I came across:
- In “Your Raisins or Your Life” [Lane III, William K. Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. 2015, Vol. 38 Issue 2, p761-779. 19p], the author presents an analysis of a very interesting case called Horne V . U.S. Department Of Agriculture. Evidently, there was a Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC) that would take a large portion of every raisin crop from raisin producers and dispose of the raisins however they saw fit. The raisin-raisin’ Horne family decided to fight back and stopped giving up their raisins. Although they lost in the lower court, the supreme court sided with them. I believe the RAC has been dismantled as a result.
“The intersection of the takings clause and rising sea levels: Justice O’Connor’s Concurrence in Palazzolo Could Prevent Climate Change Chaos” [Applegate, Devon. Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review. 2016, Vol. 43 Issue 2, p511-540. 30p]. OK I didn’t read this whole article and most of the finer points about the takings law are over my head, but I found the idea that eminent domain will play such a huge role in dealing with global climate change interesting.
- In “The Taking of Dead Horse Hollow: Eminent Domain Abuse” [Moriarty, Marilyn. Antioch Review. Spring2013, Vol. 71 Issue 2, p208-222. 15p. ], Moriarty chronicles the decades-long ordeal that a Virginia rancher went through over the use of his land.
Although far from an expert, perusing the articles in this database gave me some good insight into some of the interesting threads concerning the use of eminent domain. It will be interesting to see what happens in the Bakken pipeline court case in December. If you decide you need to find out more about a local issue, you might consider trying out this valuable ICPL resource. And if we ever decide we need to raid your private book collection for the public good, we promise not to sell them to a bookstore. ; )