Legislators work to level the playing field in energy development cases

Feb 26, 2013

The Wyoming House has passed a pair of bills that ag and landowner groups say will level the playing field when it comes to energy development. 

Under one bill, entities that are seeking to use eminent domain to condemn private property will have to pay court fees if the court determines that they didn’t offer a fair price for the land.  The other bill would raise the damage bond for seismic companies from two-thousand to five-thousand dollars. 

Bill Bensel of the Powder River Basin Resource Council says the bills should help protect landowners.

“A big issue is, if there is truly a public benefit the statute should cover that,” Bensel says.  “But far too often these are speculative ventures, pipelines, moving gas, they are a corporate profit oriented venture, it’s not necessarily a public venture and where these are happening so much as mineral development increases in the state, the landowner is really outgunned.”

But Bruce Hinchey of the Wyoming Petroleum Association says the eminent domain bill will lead to more and longer court cases.  He says it could mean that less oil and gas is developed. 

Although the Senate agreed to changes in the seismic testing bill, the eminent domain measure will go to a conference committee.