Utility companies have to wade through a web of legal protections and bureaucratic red tape before they are able to build lines and facilities in California. This work has only gotten more tedious in recent years. One previously accepted concept, eminent domain, has been a particularly sore subject. Utilities have to rethink the way they go about pursuing eminent domain if they hope to continue to succeed in today’s current regulatory and political environment.
The power of eminent domain
Eminent domain is the process by which government agencies can take the property of an owner for a project deemed necessary for the public interest. They can take this action once they have gone through due process and paid a fair value to the owners of the land. This right to eminent domain has been practiced since the country’s founding and is now essential for both governments and companies that deal in government contracts. But in recent years, judges have granted more latitude to property owners as they have challenged large projects on due process and environmental impact grounds. Nowadays, eminent domain is far from assured in a number of cases.
Making the process easier
The best step utilities can take in the eminent domain process is to be honest, transparent, and flexible with property owners. They need to reach out and share the plans they have in close detail and long before construction is scheduled to begin. Officials must gauge the level of interest and shape their compensation packages accordingly.
Paying more for the land of a potential obstinate property owner may end up saving the utility thousands or millions in legal fees. Utilities also need to ensure that they are closely studying the environmental impact of their projects and minimizing it whenever possible. They want to try to remove as many barriers as they possibly can to eminent domain before any legal challenges arise.