The following commentary does not necessarily reflect the views of AgWeb or Farm Journal Media. The opinions expressed below are the author's own.
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Farmers in Iowa are fighting a legal battle to prevent the notorious Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from crossing their land. While the eminent domain issue has been a perennial subject of controversy, the latest skirmishes should concern landowners.
A few years ago the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5 to 4 in their famous Kelo ruling that the state could expropriate land not just for public use, but for use that benefits the public, such as economic benefits. This means that using eminent domain for a new factory site is just as legal as for a public park. This ruling prompted many states to tighten up their own rules about taking land. Under our federal system states can—and I think should—have stricter interpretations of public use.
Iowa is in the middle of a court case which will test their position on property rights. All such cases hinge on what public use means, but in the case of the pipeline, I believe it has been stretched too far.
The pipeline is not publically owned or regulated and the profits from it do not go to the state. What the Kelo precedent began is the idea that the state can take your property if they think someone else could use it more profitably. When the Iowa constitution was drawn in 1857, delegates specifically voted against this principle.
The concept of public use should not be confused with the public economy. It is not unthinkable that further expansion of this public benefit principle could extend to many other types of development that promise jobs or tax revenues.
It's not just that such promises are seldom as lucrative as advertised. The greater good is that even when inconvenient, property rights are so crucial to the basis for all our laws and regulations that even small, seemingly beneficial encroachments should be resisted vigorously.
Every citizen should do some research on this subject ....Our country was blessed with some brilliant minds most of which were self taught who wrote the Articles of Confederation and our U.S. Constitution.... Please read them and realize the reasoning behind their addressing the problems they had seen so very long ago... The peoples rights have not changed ,and the Constitution certainly hasn't... So what right does the Iowa Utility Board have to grant permission to let this company to cross just anyones land ....The oil IA not going to be refined hereto make gasoline for the cars to use in this country... its going to be shipped overseas.... The Governor of Iowa and our US Senators ,Representatives all the way down to our County Supervisors and the Iowa Farm Bureau accepted a gratuity to promate and enable this project to proceed... All of which was constructed across property that this company had no constitutional right to do ...Did the IUB board think no one would catch them ? They should all be in jail Too bad we can't have government officials that have half the wisdom and common sense that the people who wrote our Constitution had ...