Sen. Torrey Westrom: Minnesota Supreme Court ruling will be significant win for landowners
Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY)! This is the issue landowners are faced with when a project for a “public purpose” comes through and negatively affects their property for the benefit of the public. NIMBY is happening across our state right now. When major transmission lines are constructed, there are always a few landowners who bear the brunt of the negative aspects of a power line.
On May 29, 2013, the Minnesota Supreme Court made a ruling on “Buy the Farm” that may positively impact NIMBY areas that have high voltage power line projects being planned or constructed. This new case clarifies current law regarding compensation for landowners who choose to be bought out by what is referred to as the “Buy the Farm” (BTF) statute. This allows them to get out from under new high voltage transmission lines like CAPX2020 which is currently under construction along the I-94 freeway.
BTF is a provision passed in the 1970s that allows a landowner to elect to have a utility company purchase their entire property in order to get out from under a large transmission line that would substantially impact the commercial viability of their property. The multi-utility CAPX2020 transmission line project is impacting many landowners in Central and Southeastern Minnesota. Legislation introduced and passed into law in the 2013 session was intended to clarify current laws and strengthen landowners’ rights in these limited instances.
The Supreme Court decision provides clarity so landowners can better understand their options and receive assistance as they alleviate the negative impact of these transmission lines. They determined that current law qualifies those who elect to participate in BTF as landowners and 'must relocate' to be eligible for additional compensation. The decision overturns an appellate court ruling that reversed a district court ruling.
The Minnesota Supreme Court (Court File A11-1116) opinion can be found here: http://legalectric.org/f/2013/05/OPA111116-0529.pdf
Once we see how this impacts project costs, we will then fully comprehend the importance of the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling. It is my hope that it will be a significant win for property owners and help smooth out the controversy that can arise when a public utility has the legal right to take someone else’s land for the “public purpose” of building a transmission line. We all appreciate having electricity to power our homes or businesses. As the legislature strives to find a fair balance, we will need to see how this year’s changes affect these projects and landowners. We can then build upon what we passed this session if different changes are needed.