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Missouri Homeowners Clash With the “Grain Belt Express” About Eminent Domain

By Tanya Svoboda
May 2021

In Missouri, the Grain Belt Express project is raising concerns about the private property rights of home and land owners in the area. The project centers around the creation of an overhead and direct transmission line to deliver wind energy. The line would stretch 780 miles and extend through Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Charon, Monroe, Randolph, and Ralls counties.

For the Grain Belt Express to be possible, project leads would need to buy the privately owned land on which the wind energy line will run. However, not all private home and land-owners living along the Grain Belt Express are ready to fork over their property. The project is raising concerns about the intricacies of eminent domain and private property rights.

What is Eminent Domain?

Eminent domain relates to the power of the government to seize privately owned property and convert the property for public use. To do so, the government is required to provide the property owners with fair compensation for their land.

Some landowners in Missouri living along the Grain Belt Express are concerned that allowing the government to take their land through eminent domain for a project that is being executed by a private company will set a dangerous precedent.

Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst disagrees with the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) eventual approval of the project, saying it “sets precedent for private companies to buy land on the cheap and profit at the expense of Missouri citizens.”

In response, Republican state Rep. Jim Hansen is sponsoring HB 2033 which “would prohibit private entities from using eminent domain for the purposes of constructing above-ground merchant lines,” explains the Missouri Times article Grain Belt Express: What to Know About the Transmission Line Project.

Yet others argue that the construction of the Grain Belt Express will not only produce clean and renewable energy, but also generate local jobs. While both of those outcomes have their merits, they do little to ease the pain of homeowners who are forced to move or sell a portion of their land for the creation of this project.

What Are Homeowners’ Rights When Given an Eminent Domain Notice?

The process of transferring land through eminent domain can be lengthy. If the government is looking to acquire your land by eminent domain, they will need to formally notify you. These legal documents should detail how much land they wish to acquire and what your compensation will be. The process is then carried out through court filings and proceedings.

If you receive an eminent domain notice, your first move should be to contact an attorney. They can help you determine if the compensation is fair. If you or your attorney determines the claim or the offered compensation is unjust, you have the right to contest the notice in court.

It can feel scary and intimidating to receive a notice of eminent domain, but as a homeowner you have rights and you are entitled to fair compensation for your property. Working with an attorney can help you make sure, if you do have to relocate, you are receiving all of the reparation to which you’re entitled.

 


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