Advocate editorial board opinion: Corporations and property owners should strive to negotiate
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In Texas, pipeline owners have the power of eminent domain if the pipeline is classified as a common carrier pipeline or a gas utility.
Common carrier pipelines carry oil, oil products, gas, carbon dioxide, salt brine, sand, liquefied minerals or other mineral solutions, according to the Texas Railroad Commission's website: rrc.state.tx.us.
Landowners in Texas resent eminent domain. We've seen it happen when the government wanted to claim land for the failed TransTexas Corridor. Landowners came out in droves against the land grab and won the battle. We think the outcry helped win that battle.
We've seen the U.S. Navy use eminent domain to get land in Goliad County - the Goliad Air Park - against the wishes of nearby landowners.
To Texans, personal property rights are extremely important - sacred, if you will. On the other hand, if eminent domain leads to the greater good, then it, too, is a valuable tool.
We see this battle happening right now between Kinder Morgan, the company building a pipeline through DeWitt County on the way to the Houston Ship Channel, and Kathy and Jimmy Gips, whose property the pipeline will cross.
For the Gipses, the battle may be over. They can do nothing but succumb to eminent domain as Kinder Morgan continues construction of its pipeline through the property.
We think eminent domain, once mentioned, sets a negative tone of any acquisition of land. Plainly, it means the pipeline company will take the land. If the company would have tried gentler methods, the outcome may have been different. In these difficult situations, both parties can come away satisfied if they have worked together.
We would encourage Kinder Morgan - or any other pipeline company - to strive to work together with landowners. Negotiate a fair market value for the land.
And we would encourage landowners, whose land might be in the path of a pending pipeline, to learn all about the power of eminent domain. Having that knowledge upfront will help when working with pipeline companies.
We think these unfortunate encounters could be handled more fairly if both the corporation and landowners work together in negotiation.
Be good neighbors as much as possible.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.