On August 16, Clark County became the fifth county in the state to pass a resolution calling on the state legislature to reform our eminent domain laws and prohibit the use of eminent domain for private profit for oil pipelines.
In 2015, Enbridge worked behind the scenes to change Wisconsin’s eminent domain laws, making them eligible to use eminent domain to build another pipeline through Wisconsin. In June, Enbridge received approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to build a new pipeline in Minnesota that would bring extra oil into Wisconsin, creating the need for a new pipeline. In response, current Enbridge easement holders are calling for eminent domain reform to ensure their land can’t be taken by eminent domain, just to let Enbridge boost their profits with no benefit to Wisconsin. In an effort to show support for stopping this unjust abuse of eminent domain, landowners are asking their County Board Supervisors to stand with them.
On Thursday, landowners in Clark County and throughout Wisconsin called on their County Board to pass a resolution calling for the prohibition of eminent domain for private gain. Over two dozen landowners and supporters attended the meeting and spoke about their concerns. Testimony included:
- Bill Leichtnam, Wood County Supervisor (sponsor of the resolution that kicked of this campaign), showed support for the resolution and explained he sponsored the resolution and the board passed it because “we didn’t feel it was right for a foreign company to take land for a pipeline to pass through Wisconsin with no benefit.”
- Julian Kulinski, a Clark County resident with an Enbridge easement, powerfully stated:
“We had no problem with Eminent Domain then. The law was justly wrought and fair. Today, things stand differently, a foreign company is running arrogantly on American soil. A private foreign interest will profit from the tar sands oil – pumped at higher pressure and more likely to leak – all the way to the Gulf, but not because America needs it. We have more than enough oil, and are even exporting an amount equal to 20% of what we use. The Eminent Domain law has been corrupted, altered to make this possible. This was done without a public hearing, without proper legislative process. This is in conflict with the purpose of Eminent Domain law. This is also in conflict with the 5th amendment.”
- Keith Merkel, of 80 Feet is Enough!, spoke about how Enbridge’s ability to use eminent domain puts landowners at a disadvantage. He explained, “Landowners don’t receive royalties but we pay taxes on the easement land. We could have to clean up the pipeline in the future so we may want a better deal [to help pay for that]. With eminent domain, Enbridge has no incentive to negotiate fairly. This is downright un-American.”
- Supervisor Bryce Luchterhand stated, “When Enbridge was here and we asked if they intended to use eminent domain. They said they didn’t think so, but were planning to keep it in their pocket. This was a lie.”
Two others also spoke and the board unanimously approved the resolution. You can watch the full discussion here.
Clark County residents were inspired by the recent passage of a resolution in Jefferson County. On July 10, Jefferson County passed a resolution calling on the legislature to review our eminent domain laws and disallow any use of eminent domain that wouldn’t have been allowed prior to 2015 (when the laws were changed). The resolution passed 23-4 after six people eloquently spoke including someone who is under the threat of eminent domain by Enbridge delivered 125 signatures in support of eminent domain reform. There was standing room only with dozens of landowners and concerned citizens present, leading the board to take stronger action than it previously had. You can learn more here.
Five counties have passed resolutions calling for eminent domain reform: Wood, Walworth, Rock, Jefferson, and Clark. Additionally, the Town of Rome (Adams County) passed the resolution. Contact us if you’d like to get involved in this effort.
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