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By Laura Beans
Food & Water Watch released a report last month detailing lax laws and regulations, such as the controversial clause of eminent domain, that benefit oil and gas companies trying to seize private land to extract or transport fossil fuels.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), eminent domain is an exercise of power of the government or quasi-government agencies to take private property for "public use."
The oil and gas industry's right to claim land has been supported by the expansion of the "Takings Clause" in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In a 2005 case, Kelo vs. City of New London, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the city's right to take private property to give to another private entity for "economic development,"—effectively rendering industry profits as public benefits—at the expense of the landowners.
The Food & Water Watch report, Eminent Domain: Laws and Loopholes that Benefit Fracking and Pipeline Companies, cites the rapid expansion of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the business of transporting crude oil and tar sands through cross country pipelines as exacerbating the problem. These companies use their legal advantages—such as eminent domain—to hurt landowners and the public.
“In many natural resource-rich areas of the country ... the knock on the door is less likely to come from a government official and much more likely to come from a mining, oil or gas company representative,” says University of Minnesota Law professor Alexandra Klass, in the report.
On September 27, three Nebraska residents will finally see their day in court in a historic eminent domain case. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of LB 1161, the law used by the state legislature and Gov. Heineman (R-NE) for approving eminent domain and the Keystone XL pipeline, which will claim the land of the three residents. The outcome will have significant implications on the broader national debate on the permit process for TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
“This lawsuit has given hope to scores of landowners who have refused to negotiate easements with TransCanada,” said Susan Dunavan, one of the landowner plaintiffs. “Landowner’s rights have been taken from us by delegating eminent domain authority to the Governor.”
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By Bijal Trivedi
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on Nov. 13 that describes a list of microorganisms that have become resistant to antibiotics and pose a serious threat to public health. Each year these so-called superbugs cause more than 2.8 million infections in the U.S. and kill more than 35,000 people.
By Joe Vukovich
Under the guise of responding to consumer complaints that today's energy- and water-efficient dishwashers take too long, the Department of Energy has proposed creating a new class of dishwashers that wouldn't be subject to any water or energy efficiency standards at all. The move would not only undermine three decades of progress for consumers and the environment, it is based on serious distortions of fact regarding today's dishwashers.
By Emily Moran
If you have oak trees in your neighborhood, perhaps you've noticed that some years the ground is carpeted with their acorns, and some years there are hardly any. Biologists call this pattern, in which all the oak trees for miles around make either lots of acorns or almost none, "masting."
By Catherine Davidson
Tashi Yudon peeks out from behind a net curtain at the rooftops below and lets out a sigh, her breath frosting on the windowpane in front of her.
Some 700 kilometers away in the capital city Delhi, temperatures have yet to dip below 25 degrees Celsius, but in Spiti there is already an atmosphere of impatient expectation as winter settles over the valley.