Johnathan Hladik: Giving landowners the power

High-voltage transmission lines are needed to meet evolving energy needs. Engineers estimate that $7 billion dollars of investment is required to properly maintain and update the electric grid.

But building lines isn’t easy.  Developers will need to acquire thousands of acres of land from landowners across the country.

Typically developers attempt to purchase easements through negotiations. They are often provided eminent domain authority if negotiations fail. This authority has been used for years to build highways and railroads. However, there are problems with its use that create frustrations for landowners and developers alike.

Many feel eminent domain erodes property rights and removes liberties. It is expensive, requiring administrative and legal costs that are ultimately paid for by electric users. Compensation fails to consider personal preferences, family history, and community bonds.

Solutions are available to address these problems. In our new report Giving Landowners the Power (http://www.cfra.org/giving-landowners-the-power), we outlined key strategies to use while improving the transmission development process. We consider how compensation is calculated, problems with public use, and how project need is determined.

The report suggests that eminent domain alternatives adopt two solutions–promoting public involvement during planning and approval, and creating a way for landowners to share information with each other and other stakeholders.

The report also details existing and new structures for compensating landowners.

To ensure that transmission is built in a way that works best for all involved, this report shows that landowners must be fairly compensated local and communities must be involved.

Johnathan Hladik
Center for Rural Affairs

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, nonprofit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.

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