Eminent Domain Has Little To Do With Public Good
Editor's Note: The following letter was written in response to an Associated Press story, "Landowners Fight To Save Land Fr om Gas Companies," that appeared in the Jan. 1, 2009, edition of the "News."
To The Editor:
Speaking as one of the property owners actually fighting eminent domain in federal court (Johnstown, Pa.), I can confirm that the traditional interpretation of eminent domain is shifting. It is supposed to be the "taking" of property or property rights under the badge of government for the "public good," based on just compensation.
In too many cases today, however, eminent domain has less to do with projects for the "public good," and everything to do with the financial good of publicly held corporations. Today, eminent domain means someone wants your property, and the government helps them take it.
Bedford County property owners are being hauled into federal court by Houston-based Spectra Energy Corp. and backed by the power of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The landowners" property is sitting on top of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale, but they can't develop that because Spectra Energy wants to use the Oriskany sands layer (which is under the Marcellus) for a 12-billion cubic-foot underground natural gas storage facility. They say it is critical - even though Pennsylvania has more underground gas storage sites than any other state in the continental U.S., according to the DOE's Energy Information Administration.
Keep in mind that property owners possess the key asset - the land - but they are not treated as stakeholders in this process. They are mere obstacles to Spectra Energy and FERC. The grass roots are rising on issues of eminent domain. To get more information and to follow this issue, go to our Web site: http://www.spectraenergywatch. com/blog/ Mike Benard Bedford County property owner