Landowners in Grand Forks County are suing the North Dakota Pipeline Co., which is attempting to build the “Sandpiper” pipeline across North Dakota and Minnesota to a terminal in Wisconsin. Their land near Emerado has been condemned as part of the process that would permit the company to build the pipeline on their land.
Eminent domain is one of the most powerful tools possessed by the government. Eminent domain power allows the federal, state or local government to authorize the “taking” of private land for a public use.
With many eminent domain cases, the core arguments surround the concept of public use. Public use is seen when a city needs to build a public building, such as a courthouse or school. Road construction is another area where eminent domain is employed and the public use element is often obvious.
Pipelines are another area where public use may be clear, as when the pipelines carry water or natural gas to customers' homes and businesses.
The concept of public use becomes less clear when the pipeline is constructed by a private company to carry a commodity, such as crude oil that they will sell to consumers located far from the farmlands of Emerado, North Dakota.
The landowners are likely to object because there is no genuine public use for the people of North Dakota, and much of the benefit will inure to the private owners of the pipeline while very little will be received by those with burdened property. They also must face the risk of ruptures or spills that could cause catastrophic damage to their farmland.
The appeal is headed to the North Dakota Supreme Court. Lawsuits and arguments involving questions of eminent domain and public use can be very complex and esoteric. The Court will have to determine if this pipeline constitutes a genuine public use to uphold the lower court's condemnation order.
Source: agweek.com, “Grand Forks (N.D.) County landowner files appeal in Sandpiper pipeline dispute,” John Hageman, Forum News Service, January 22, 2016