Tie Vote in Eminent Domain Issue
BISMARCK – The North Dakota State House narrowly defeated a bill that would have required surveyors to obtain written consent from landowners before entering their land.
Senate Bill 2251 would have required corporations to obtain written consent from a landowner or a court order to survey the landowner’s land during the eminent domain process. The Energy and Natural Resources committee gave the bill a 9-3 Do Not Pass recommendation.
“On a preliminary survey for project planning, intrusion is minimal, no private property rights are taken, and no damage to the property,” said Rep. Dick Anderson, R-Dis. 6, Willow City. “The second requirement to obtain written permission would result in construction delays, and with our short construction season this could cause six to 12 month delays.”
“Senate Bill 2251 guarantees the most fundamental, political right, which is a right to own one’s property and to decide who is allowed on one’s property,” said Rep. Brandon Prichard, R-Dis. 8, Bismarck. “We have a big problem in our state, and particularly in my district, with surveyors coming onto people’s land without consent.”
Prichard said he obtained a list of all of the court cases that have been filed in his district by landowners who sued corporations for entering their land without consent, saying almost all of them were filed against one of the major corporations conducting carbon capture.
“The carbon capture company that is having lawsuits with the landowners are actually in support of this bill,” said Prichard. “They believe it closes a loophole. In 1895 when the surveying law passed in North Dakota, it was a major loophole not to allow landowners to consent to who comes onto their land. This would simply fix that loophole.”
“This is for public use, which basically means highways, flood projects, water projects,” said Anderson. “I talked to the representative of rural water, and since he’s been working they haven’t had any complaints on a surveyor going across anybody’s property. If this bill is put into code, in the end the taxpayer is just going to pay a lot more for projects.”
SB2251 failed by a tie vote of 46-46, meaning it can be reconsidered. The House also killed SB2313 by a vote of 51 to 40 which would have required legislative management to consider studying fair and just compensation in all eminent domain proceedings.