HELENA, Mont., Jan. 31, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Opponents of Montana House Bill 198 said today legislators who support it will have a hard time explaining to voters in 2012 why they endorsed legislation that violates private property protections in the Montana and United States Constitution.
Among the prominent organizations opposing HB 198 are the Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Cattlewomen, Northern Plains Resource Council, Farmer's Union, United Property Owners of Montana, Women Involved In Farm Economics, Beaverhead Outdoors Association, and Concerned Citizens Montana (CCM).
CCM, a statewide grassroots watchdog organization, says the proposed legislation will effectively allow private corporations and foreign entities to condemn land to build power transmission lines that send electricity to out-of-state and out-of-country customers. As a result, CCM says HB 198 would eliminate current constitutional protections in place for private property owners. CCM and other opponent organizations urge all Montanans to contact their representatives immediately and ask them to vote no on HB 198.
"Claims that HB 198 clarifies the status quo are blatantly untrue," said Hertha Lund of Lund Law, PLLC. "At one time the eminent domain law allowed Montana Power Company to condemn property to serve Montana citizens. HB 198 is very different in that it allows corporations and foreign utilities to confiscate private land for their profit and benefit, not everyday Montanans."
"There must be balance in our eminent domain laws," said Chuck Denowh of United Property Owners of Montana. "We cannot allow utility companies to use 'take it or leave it' offers; we need a clearly defined process that gives property owners an equal place at the table with utility companies. HB 198 falls far short."
President of the Beaverhead Outdoors Association, which represents sportsmen, ranchers, and recreationalists, Steve Jenning said the organization adamantly opposes HB 198. "It would strip landowners of their private property rights when dealing with utilities. Our organization supports the farming and ranching communities as they provide valuable habitat for wildlife. Allowing unrestrained land grabs will destroy wildlife management plans, habitat and land values."
Marie Garrison, rancher and CCM executive director, said that HB 198 is unfair to landowners because:
- HB 198 retroactively allows a foreign corporation that received a Montana Facilities Siting Act (MFSA) certificate to condemn property, which violates landowners' due process and constitutionally protected private property rights."
- HB 198 removes condemnation protection granted to rural landowners in 2007 in the Kelo case, which ruled eminent domain could not be used for business development.
- Landowners will not be provided actual notice prior to their property being targeted for condemnation in the MFSA process.
- HB 198 allows a private or foreign entity to confiscate property for corporate profit, which modifies the current law that prevents condemnation of property for anything other than public use.
- HB 198 puts foreign corporate interests before landowners because Tonbridge Power, owner of the Montana-Alberta Tie Line, is seeking condemnation rights to cash in on $160 million in U.S. stimulus funds before their project timeline runs out.
Beaverhead Outdoor Association president Steve Jennings added, "The sole purpose of HB 198 is to circumvent the recent and correct ruling which denied eminent domain power to private utilities. The legislature should be strengthening the constitutional rights of Montana citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures."
Concerned Citizens Montana seeks to maintain Montana's unique and important lifestyle and was legally incorporated in September 2010. The organization serves as a clearinghouse for public information, and unites citizen efforts and resources to ensure NorthWestern Energy, state and federal agencies, and elected officials are representing sound energy policies that are in the best interest of Montanans. CCM has built a statewide network of supporters who represent diverse issues, including ranching, small business, tourism, education, natural resources, government, recreation, real estate, public health and safety, and energy rates.
SOURCE Concerned Citizens Montana