The topic of eminent domain has become increasingly relevant to advocates and homeowners in Schoharie County recently, as natural gas pipeline companies faced with local opposition resort to its means to obtain land easements.
Eminent domain, simply defined, is the process by which: "the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation."
Nervous that this practice is coming to Schoharie County, our Board of Supervisors recently declared they are "opposed to having its resident's lands taken by way of eminent domain....without having first been granted permission by the owners of said property."
So are we.
Unlike most observers in Schoharie County, media or otherwise, The Schoharie News has remained strictly neutral on the pipeline debate because we felt someone needed to remain fair to all sides after years of discontented fighting.
We still have no official opinion on whether or not more pipelines should be granted further access through the county, while on the related topic of fracking we simply believe the Utica Shale formation does not contain enough shale in our region to ever warrant drilling here.
However, eminent domain crosses a line.
Invoking stark images of whole communities being forcefully relocated to allow the transcontinental railroad or hydroelectric dams to be constructed, eminent domain has a unkind reputation with respect to the United States government's utilization of its power.
One that has transcended the centuries and lasted strongly into present time. Americans are prickly people, we expect our rights to be upheld and not trampled upon, especially when it comes to our fundamental and unquestionable right to possess private property.
We're sorry, but this requires us to take a stand. If the Constitution and Tennessee Gas Pipelines are approved the burden of securing land easements falls on their representatives shoulders to come to acceptable terms with property owners in accordance with the law.
Usurping sections of private property for private enterprise is, quite frankly, the farthest pipeline companies could go from reaching acceptable terms with hesitant landowners. As such, we believe a stand must be taken and that the pipelines should be opposed until this situation is favorably resolved.