Montana Representative Pulls Landowner Compensation Bill After Utility Industries Amend it Beyond its Intent

Mar 30, 2011, 19:03 ET from Concerned Citizens Montana

HELENA, Mont., March 30, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Montanan Republican Representative Kelly Flynn requested a "do not pass" on his bill 240, which sought fair compensation from the utilities industry for Montana landowners facing eminent domain condemnation. The utilities industry, which opposed the bill in its original form, championed it after adding several of their amendments.

The amendment that would "strike at the very heart of what I have tried to do," according to Flynn would stipulate that any project that receives federal funds was exempt from landowner compensation. This anticipated amendment, which was not attached to the bill at the time of the vote, sealed the fate of House Bill 240.

"HB 240 was a bill for private property owners," said Townsend, Montana, rancher Chuck Hahn. "Industry groups did not like that HB 240 would lighten their club of condemnation. They did everything in their power to weaken it. In the end it became a pawn of the industry groups in their attempt to expand the use of eminent domain. All property owners in Montana owe a deep debt of gratitude to Rep. Kelly Flynn. He is a man of principle and honor who has chosen to represent his constituents rather than be swayed by the powerful forces that operate in the halls of the Capitol," added Hahn.

Hahn approached Flynn to carry House Bill 240 to help clarify points in current Montana law that guarantee landowners – subject to eminent domain condemnation – would be treated fairly by condemning entities through due process, just compensation, good faith negotiations, and coverage of landowner litigation expenses when they prevailed over a final written offer.

In recent testimony to the House Federal Regulations, Energy and Transmission (FRET) committee, Montana land use attorney Peter Scott said transmission companies don't like Montana's existing laws and are seeking wholesale changes.

"Plan A consists of three bills supported by the utilities industry – Senate Bills 233 and 206, and House Bill 198. Plan B is Senate Bill 320, in case transmission companies cannot convince the legislature to favor constructing for-profit transmission lines on private property," said Scott.

"Plan A would eliminate the requirement to consider the economic impact of using private land instead of public land; create a new provision that allows consideration of factors outside of Montana to show need for a project; give merchant transmission companies the right of eminent domain and; take away an owner's right to seek judicial recourse under the private property protections contained in the Montana Environmental Protection Act," added Scott.

"Under SB 320 (Plan B), transmission line companies would get the benefit of existing transmission right-of-ways and would not have to apply for a permit at all no matter how big the line would be," said Scott. "Allowing upgrades on existing lines is reasonable, but eliminating any constraints, like due process, environmental impact oversight on that process is not." Senate Bill 320 is expected to be scheduled very soon on the House floor for debate.

"Flynn has truly been a champion and advocate for private property rights and he demonstrated integrity in pulling HB 240," said Marie Garrison, Montana landowner on the path of the proposed Mountain States Transmission Intertie (MSTI). "This particular legislative session started with a bent to give private property rights to corporations, leaving families like mine – fifth generation ranchers – with hundreds of acres of scarred and unusable land. I am encouraged by Flynn's actions to protect the livelihood of farms and ranches."

CCM serves as a clearinghouse for public information and resources to ensure state and federal agencies, and elected officials are representing sound energy policies in the best interest of Montanans.

CONTACT: Debbie Hanneman
Concerned Citizens Montana

SOURCE Concerned Citizens Montana