Vice President Dick Cheney seeks to expand eminent domain authority for the Federal Government
SEATTLE — Western Republicans and property-rights groups, after years of fighting environmental activists over restrictions on land use, are gearing up to oppose the Bush administration on an issue at the heart of regional fears about overreaching federal power.
The New York Times reports that President Bush's energy plan includes provisions allowing the federal government to seize private property, using eminent-domain authority, to place new electric transmission lines.
Any plan to expand the federal government's ability to condemn private property is likely to run into heavy opposition in a region that has long been staunchly Republican, says a spokesman for Sen. Larry E. Craig, R-Idaho.
Craig definitely feels this issue is best left up to the states.
Vice President Dick Cheney, a one-time Wyoming Congressman, talks of the need to give the federal government authority to condemn private property to ease the way for thousands of miles of new power lines — something that would require the approval of Congress. This authority is now granted for placing natural gas lines, but not for expanding the electric grid.
Western governors say they have been told by federal authorities that the nation's electric grid needs to be expanded by as much as 55,000 miles, and that this cannot be accomplished without granting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission new powers to condemn property.
Chuck Cushman, executive director of American Land Rights, a property-rights group in Battle Ground, Wash., says it is dangerous to give power of condemnation to any federal agency.
States now have the right of eminent domain to place their own powerlines.
Western governors, including Michael O. Leavitt of Utah and Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho, both Republicans, have cautioned the Bush administration against any new federal eminent-domain authority.
Eminent domain, in which the government condemns a private property, establishes a fair-market value for it, then pays the property owner, is usually invoked for highways or military facilities.
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