Eminent Domain Used for Corporate Greed

Eminent Domain Used for Corporate Greed

In the 21st Century, government has managed to vastly broaden its ability to seize your land, whether you like it or not. What began as a constitutional argument by the Founding Fathers, who included a Fifth Amendment provision that private land can only be taken for “public use,” has expanded to the government seizing it for just about any whim at all, including corporate greed.
But, this is America and the government can’t just take things away, right? Wrong. The only rights left for property owners is a guaranteed yearly tax bill and “fair compensation.” The seizures don’t even need to be for public use anymore.
Eminent domain has a long history of serving the public good. It has been used to establish post offices, connect the coasts via railroads, create transportation hubs such as airports, and protect areas for drinking water. All that sounds perfectly reasonable, as long as the owner is paid appropriately for the property. But in the 21st Century, the government took a different and much more expansive approach to eminent domain.
The City of New London, CT, made a move on a group of property owners’ land for a private redevelopment plan. The properties were not part of a slum or blighted in anyway. In fact, the land grab wasn’t even intended for a public use. They had no government facilities planned, rail system, nothing. New London officials just wanted the area improved and argued that a private developer could generate more tax revenue from the property than the current owners.
In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the city, affirming that the government could seize your property and sell it against your wishes to another private person or company.
Since the 2005 Kelo case, fighting a government seizure has become incredibly difficult for property owners. And, the government has rapidly increased its eminent domain seizures and loosened up the reasons why it needs your property.
For example, the controversial Dakota Access pipeline cuts through land held by 15 Iowa residents. The government used the Iowa Utilities Board as a legal vehicle to take land over the objections of the Iowans. On the surface, this seems like a sensible use of the constitutional “takings” clause. But again, owners of the project — Bakken Holdings Company, Energy Transfer Partners, Sunoco Logistic Partners and Phillips 66 — are all private oil-industry entities. In terms of benefits, these corporations gain a cost reduction because they would no longer have to truck crude oil to refineries. Very little, if anything, changes for the general public. Eminent domain has again been put to work to buoy corporate profits.
Farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley have been subject to a similar and land grab. The California High Speed Rail Project has been snapping up rich farmland for a 220-MPH rail system. There are already numerous ways for people to travel from L.A. to the Bay Area. This would only make it faster. If you think about balancing irreplaceable farmland with saving commuter time, it would appear the public’s interests are with maintaining farmland. But again, corporate profits are winning the day and farmers are battling to just be fairly compensated.
Americans have always feared the expansion of government powers for good reason. Eminent domain has gone from a tool used to enrich all to a weapon for corporate greed.