Eminent Domain for Private Gain

If you haven’t heard the phrase before, “eminent domain” is essentially the power that government entities and many private companies have to confiscate private property to build something, even when the landowner doesn’t want to sell their land or property. To claim the rights of eminent domain to route a pipeline across private land in Texas, all a company has to do is check a box on a two-page form to the Railroad Commission of Texas (which regulates drilling and pipelines in the state).

By checking that box, the private company says it is a “public use” or a “common carrier,” which assumes that a pipeline that will be available at market rates for other companies to use, so therefore, it is automatically concluded that it’s in the public interest.

The form can be changed internally through the Railroad Commission to require more scrutiny and proof of public benefit as well as requiring an environmental impact study. Private companies should not be granted the rights of the government by simply checking a box.

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