Legislation Would Allow Eminent Domain Action for Oil and Gas-related Roads

(KCPW News) Property owners in Utah could be forced to sell their land for new energy-related purposes if a proposed bill makes it out of the Utah Legislature this year. Republican Representative Mike Noel is the sponsor of House Bill 74, which would allow for eminent domain actions to be brought against a landowner to build roads that are needed for the development, production or exploration of oil or natural gas.

“There’s already a right in the statute for gas, oil and coal pipelines,” he tells KCPW. “All we’re doing is adding the fact that you can get a road in there to drill the wells and then put them in the pipeline, so it’s really a no-brainer.”

Noel credits SITLA, Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, for writing the bill.

Democratic Representative Brian King, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee where the bill was heard on Monday, says while there is good that comes from oil and gas exploration, the government cannot overstep its bounds by encroaching on people’s property rights.

“This is a very, very important matter in terms of public lands, in terms of private property rights, in terms of the use of eminent domain. It’s a coercive government action. And so whenever we’re talking about eminent domain we need to be very careful that we’re not doing something in a way that damages individuals’ private property rights,” says King.

The committee will finish receiving public comment on the bill at its next meeting before taking a final vote.