House Adopts King Measure to Protect Landowners from Abuses by Pipeline Eminent Domain

May 4, 2007

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King Property Rights Measures also included in Landowner’s Bill of Rights Act

Austin – On Thursday and Friday, the Texas House of Representatives gave approval to two key bills protecting the property rights of Texas citizens. Both bills included provisions authored by Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) which provide procedural safeguards to the condemnation process governing pipeline companies.

King stated, “While the Barnett Shale natural gas boom has brought numerous benefits to Parker and Wise counties, it has also demonstrated the need for more fairness in how citizens are treated when pipelines must be built. Property rights are sacred, and currently landowners don’t receive a shred of information about their rights and options when their property faces condemnation. My legislation levels the playing field between landowners and pipeline companies.”

C.S.H.B. 1659, authored by King, proposes to implement new procedural safeguards on behalf of a property owner who is having his property condemned by a common carrier pipeline. The measures provide for a property owner to receive notice of the intent of the common carrier to initiate the condemnation, fair notice of the scheduled hearing on the condemnation, the ability to object to a commissioner who may have a conflict of interest, and a reasonable delay to prepare for the condemnation proceeding.

C.S.H.B. 1659 was adopted by the Texas House on Friday. Additionally, the bill was included as an amendment to H.B. 1495, which passed the House on Thursday. H.B. 1495, formally entitled the “Landowner’s Bill of Rights Act”, provides landowners with full notice of their rights and options during the condemnation process. Representative King was a co-author of that act.

As approved by the House, the Landowner’s Bill of Rights Act requires that governmental entities seeking to condemn private property provide affected landowners with a “Landowner’s Bill of Rights” statement. The statement provided must inform landowners of their rights to notice, fair negotiation, compensation, and to appeal a condemnation judgment. The written statement must also describe the condemnation process, the condemning entity’s obligations throughout the condemnation process, and the landowner’s available options.

“The Landowner Bill of Rights Act provides essential protections and valuable information to Texas property owners before the condemnation process begins,” said Nathan Rhea, representing the Property Rights Organization of Texas. “Being fully informed on your options is critical to protecting property rights.”

King added, “The fact that someone’s home may be condemned through the power of eminent domain should not be hidden in fine print that can only be deciphered by a lawyer. This Act requires that landowners affected by a proposed condemnation receive a fair and easy to read explanation of their rights and the condemnation process.”

Both bills will now go on to the Senate to be debated next week.