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TransCanada Taking Colome Rancher’s Land; Jury to Decide Easement Value

What's Matt McGovern doing after losing his bid to replace Kristie Fiegen on the Public Utilities Commission? Oh, the usual: trying to prevent big government from redistributing the wealth of South Dakota landowners to foreign moochers.

Wait a minute: isn't protecting property rights supposed to be the Republican Party's purview? You'd think, but as usual, when it comes to TransCanada and the Keystone XL pipeline, South Dakota conservatives are dead silent when it comes to protecting South Dakota landowners.

McGovern is representing Colome rancher John Harter in court. TransCanada plans to plow the Keystone XL pipeline into his pasture. They offered him a dollar a day for the privilege of hosting their risk. Harter said no. TransCanada took him to court to force him to give up his land. The South Dakota court sided with TransCanada, saying as another court did in 2008, that a private pipeline owned by a private foreign corporation hauling only that corporation's private clients' product qualifies as a "common carrier" and thus can seize land from South Dakotans under eminent domain.

Conservatives hate eminent domain. They ought to be going ape over this abuse of South Dakota property rights. They ought to be hanging these judges in effigy and starting recall petitions (can we do that to judges?). But because its Big Oil, the right-wing commentariat gives us crickets.

And John Harter waits for a Tripp County jury to decide how much TransCanada must pay him for scarring his land and putting his cattle, livelihood, and resale value and permanent risk. We can only hope that Harter's peers will recognize the great value of his land and the great sacrifice he is being forced to make by a greedy, arrogant corporation.

Harter speaks about his land (his land, dang it!) in this video from the Natural Resources Defense Council:

Blaise Emerson, Black Hills economic development honcho, tells that Sioux Falls paper he doesn't see any reason Keystone XL shouldn't go forward. Emerson and the state of South Dakota don't see John Harter. Matt McGovern does. We all should.


  1. bret clanton 2012.11.19

    My hats off to you John. You have stayed in there and fought the good fight long after the rest of us threw in the towel. You have stuck to your principles and that is something no one can take away from you......

  2. Steve Sibson 2012.11.19

    What the RINOs say and what they do are two different things. Of course the Democrats say they are for the little guy, but they are not. When the fight is fascism vs communisim, the little guys always loses. We have a couple of World Wars to prove that.

  3. Eve Fisher 2012.11.19

    Calling all self-proclaimed patriots: if you can't see the problem with a private foreign company being given eminent domain over any American citizen's property, you have no idea what patriotism is about. This has got to stop. Now.

  4. Bree S. 2012.11.19

    This foreign pipeline has had 3 times the usual number of eminent domain cases for a pipeline. It's simply ridiculous that eminent domain would even apply to an alien corporation.

  5. Les 2012.11.19

    "his land, dang it!"

    Yep, his land under rules from the business end of a rifle. As is your house, my land and Bill's business.

    For Eve to declare eminent domain ok in a domestic situation hardly mends the wounds of those whose property has been confiscated by the hands of an ugly state.

  6. Bree S. 2012.11.19

    Oh come on with the apologism Les. It doesn't belong in every conversation. Just like Sibby doesn't need to bring up communism every 5 seconds.

  7. Dougal 2012.11.19

    This is precisely the reason a bunch of New Englanders dressed up as Native Americans, jumped on a foreign corporation's ship and dumped that foreign corporation's tea into Boston Harbor and thumbed their nose at the ruling government.

    In this case, the ruling government is the Public Utilities Commission of the State of South Dakota.

    Where are the Tea Party "radicals" in our legislature when they actually have a bonafide, classic Tea Party transgression in their laps? C'mon boys and girls, it's time for tea!

  8. Les 2012.11.19

    So two wrongs make a right Bree?

    More apologism. This just a smidgen of what the international corps under the protections of our military have been subjecting mostly third world nations to for as long as they have had that power. Get used to it or get Tea Party'd.
    Also, China owns a percentage of the Canadian oil and it is the Chinese boots on our soil, so to speak.
    Btw, it sounds like the man has given the approval on XL.

  9. Bree S. 2012.11.19

    I'm not saying you don't have any good points Les. I'm just saying, do you have to pound that hammer all the time, the way Sibby does?

  10. Les 2012.11.19

    But, but, I'm never wrong, am it? ;-)

  11. Jana 2012.11.19

    Has anyone gotten the Governor, Dusty Johnson, Hanson, Fiegen, Nelson, Sutton and Vanneman to go on record as being for TransCanada being able to take Mr. Harter's land and place his property and livelihood at risk?

    Simple question "Do you support the government taking private land and redistributing that wealth to a foreign company?"

    And I would follow that with the question "Do you think that Mr. Harter will be exposed to any risks that would be detrimental to himself and his property?"

    Just for fun I would ask them how they imagine Mr. Harter will feel, knowing his great legal expenses, they tear his land up? How do you suppose he will feel when the bulldozers come to begin their work?

    Their decisions have consequences, intended and unintended, and they should be on the record showing they understand those consequences at a very personal level.

  12. Bree S. 2012.11.19

    *Begin program LesBot*

    Of course you're never wrong Les. That's why I always agree with you.

  13. Douglas Wiken 2012.11.19

    Trans-Canada has told Bloomberg news that the primary reason for this pipeline is to increase the price of fuels in the midwest. There is a glut of crude here according to them. The pipeline will move it to China and therefore increase retail prices here. Ten to 20 cents per gallon may not exceed the initial property tax revenues to counties with the XL line, but sure puts a dent in it and adds costs to all South Dakotans.

    Harter has land with ground waters relatively near the surface. Any leak of the solvents used to make this oil sands crude flowable will likely spread widely in any acquifer or river. South Dakota state government agencies apparently don't give a tinker's damn for water as a resource or see any reason compared to other states involved to require bonds to cover potential costs.

    The XL pipeline route through Harter's land is too close to water wells for Winner, SD and Colome, SD. Also crosses the White River where a leak would pollute all uses of Missouri for drinking water south of I-90.

    The benefits of this pipeline are either out-right lies or gross exaggerations and the potential costs and damage of the line grossly under estimated.

    Montana required bonds before they even allowed surveyers into the the state. They ran hearings in the environmental protection agency. South Dakota, as far as I know, ran it through the PUC where they apparently only see worthiness in projects where they have mediocre influence to control and regulate.

    A few $billion for wind and solar production of multiple kinds of energy (not just electric) makes much more sense than allowing this pipeline which will be constructed by subcontractors which can disappear the day after the pipeline is completed.

  14. bret clanton 2012.11.19

    Republicans, both tea-party, rino and otherwise have all largely avoided this issue. The protection of private property rights has always been a GOP mantra. I am a republican and I feel my party has abandoned me. My question today is what the hell am I and what is the definition of a republican in the state of South Dakota???

  15. Bree S. 2012.11.19

    Our legislators are getting their arms twisted by business interests. They're worrying about pandering to the money and have forgotten about the constituent. We will fight these fake Republicans, these slick city lawyers and their clients.

    In their haste to charge the field they have forgotten to protect their flank.

  16. Les 2012.11.19

    I feel for you Bret. Tell me why Sen Maher couldn't get enough to sign on with roughly 2 cents a barrel clean up contingency fund with cap for XL?
    South Dakotans need to become involved regardless of party, but from what I hear, most of Harding County wants XL to run through their neighbors land.
    BTW, Sens: Novstrup, Gant, Nelson, R. Olson and Tieszen looked to be key Gov bots.

  17. bret clanton 2012.11.19

    Key words Les, neighbors land. TransCanada has been very successful at buying favor with promises of $$$ and dividing the rural communities through which they will pass....

  18. Jana 2012.11.19

    Exactly Bret!

    That's why asking questions that don't invite party platitudes is so important.

    As much as PP would like us to believe that this is just a game to be played only by the politically connected, these decisions have real consequences for real people.

    Asking hard questions forces them to actually look past their pithy platitudes and obstinate orthodoxy and give citizens a real look at what they are doing in our name.

  19. Jana 2012.11.19

    OMG, as if heaven sent PP has a post up now on 5 Questions With Brian Gosch.

    What you will notice is that neither PP or Gosch are thinking about governance or policy and how they will impact everyday South Dakotans.

    Nope, nothing but their own narcissistic view of what it means to be in power in South Dakota!

    I know PP is a paid sycophant for the GOP, but shouldn't we expect more out of Gosch who has been placed in a position of power to serve all of South Dakota?

    But since Gosch is so good at handling tough questions that really matter to all of South Dakota, here's one for him:

    PP, best blogger or best blogger ever? (With apologies to Stephen Colbert)

  20. Jana 2012.11.19

    Les. "Tell me why Sen Maher couldn't get enough to sign on with roughly 2 cents a barrel clean up contingency fund with cap for XL?"

    That is a great question...and it's not too late for anyone to ask him. If he's in your district or you know him, ask him!

    Better yet, ask Maher how he will answer that after a leak from XL.
    Ask him to name the people that blocked the 2 cents and why they chose to block it. Ask him how he is prepared to deal with that now that he has left the barn door open!

    Then let us know how he answered.

    Just guessing that neither he or anyone else in Pierre has an answer. Or at least an honest answer.

    If I'm John Harter, that is the question he should send to every reporter in the state in hopes of getting an answer from the governor and every elected official.

    My apologies to Mercer, Woster and Montgomery if they have asked these questions and received and reported the answers. (hard to tell with paywalls.) Hey guys, you read this blog...chime in if you have been given a good answer.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.11.20

    Good questions, Jana! I would suggest that our officials' expressed support for TransCanada and their silence on eminent domain is tacit agreement that handing our land to a foreign corporation is acceptable. And Les, I don't think Eve or I are declaring eminent domain o.k. in a domestic situation. It's just that forced redistribution of property rights to a foreign corporation is all the worse, and should all the more provoke the Tea Party rage.

    Douglas, good reminder that we're talking about John Harter's land and everyone's water and health.

    Bree, Bret, please do provoke your Republican friends. They need to be shaken out of their silence on this issue, and that shaking will be most effective coming from folks like you.

  22. Les 2012.11.20

    I believe it was SB 161 in 2010 that Maher brought. Look to the governors nay voters. I don't understand why it would have taken a super majority after it came out of committee.

  23. Les 2012.11.20

    Bree is both right and wrong in her apologism context of me Corey.

    The stake I was hoping to drive home would be tenth amendment rights. Until we take the sovereign status as states, we will be run through the federal grist mill at their whim, whether foreign or domestic.

    I kind of sound like Sib this morning huh Bree? ;)

  24. Bree S. 2012.11.20

    I see Larry. So you're just trying to bump it to the top? Now your silliness makes more sense to me.

  25. larry kurtz 2012.11.20

    more like bumping sibby to the bottom.

  26. larry kurtz 2012.11.20

    Read VO's piece again, BS: Democrats have to stop letting you earth haters keep gutting us.

  27. John 2012.11.20

    The core of the problem was and remains right-wing, business-oriented courts, supreme and otherwise. Our nation's founders knew what a pipeline was - after all the Roman's invented aqueducts and sewers a few centuries earlier. Since the founding the courts screwed up the meaning of public purpose to it's present day interpretation of "private profits" that may or may not be taxable (but whether the legislature taxes it isn't the court's problem). The bottom line on common carrier is and should be that if the entity is owned and operated by the people, the people's government, then and only then is it a common carrier - otherwise it's a profitable enterprise that should be taxed, regulated, and operated like a private enterprise.

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.11.20

    Tenth Amendment? Let's not get too Birchy about it, Les. I think a straight reading of the Fifth ought to suffice: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." There's no public use for Keystone XL. That Tripp County jury shouldn't even be meeting.

  29. Les 2012.11.20

    We can talk till the cows come home Corey, Birchy or otherwise. If we don't take back our constitution, it doesn't matter whether its fifth or tenth amendments lost.
    The devil is in the details, but, too many details can also derail a common agreement such as, none of us agreeing on the abuse of eminent domain.

  30. Bree S. 2012.11.20

    There shouldn't be a tax incentive for the government to back the theft of private land from property owners.

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