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No eminent domain for private gain

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I was born and raised in California and spend considerable time working in the Golden State, so I stay up on issues. I migrated north to Oregon almost 20 years ago to be closer to my folks who retired in Oregon. My work revolves around California local government so I’m tuned into the fire and public safety issues and the PG&E power shutdowns, and the effect on my client communities.

When I read the recent article in the Napa Valley Register about Calistoga vineyard owner Terry Gard and the PG&E effort to use eminent domain to seize his property for a liquid natural gas plant it hit a very raw nerve for me and my heart and support goes out to him and his family (“PG&E wants to seize private vineyard property for liquid natural gas plant in Calistoga,“ Oct. 14).

I hope the local community is surrounding him with care and encouragement and standing up for him against the threat of eminent domain.

The violation of private property rights in this country by for-profit corporations has become a heart-wrenching, expensive and life-changing battle for thousands of Americans. I know this because my family has been bullied and threatened with eminent domain by two Canadian fossil fuel corporations for almost 15 years now.

Canada’s Pembina Pipeline is threatening eminent domain to take over a mile of our property for a 100’ wide easement to construct the 36-inch high pressured Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline to transport fracked gas from Canada to the proposed Jordan Cove Terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon to export LNG to Asia. The project will cross over 400 water bodies, clear-cut thousands of acres of old growth forests and threaten thousands of endangered species and increase the wildland fire threat in Southern Oregon beyond measure. It will leave Oregon an environmental crime scene.

Corporations such as PG&E have little regard for much beyond profits and filling the pockets of their shareholders – clearly evidenced by recent reports showing they necessary maintenance on their aging infrastructure in order to pay themselves and give bonus.

To protect themselves and shield their shareholders from the responsibility for damages and deaths caused by fires in 2018, PG&E filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 29, and, are now holding the state of California and its resident’s hostage with unplanned and planned power outages – costing businesses and individuals millions, if not billions, of dollars statewide.

When the United States Supreme Court ruled that private corporations were people, the tide shifted substantially in favor of the corporation over that of the “natural person,” people like you and me. Not only do corporations have rights under corporate-personhood they have more rights than an individual does.

Even more, they have the financial resources to essentially take what they want. In Kelo v. New London, the Supreme Court ruled that the use of eminent domain could be used to transfer land from one private owner to another private owner to further economic development. And, even though the Kelo decision sparked a trend to strengthen laws against eminent domain abuse, it hasn’t slowed the corporate thirst for greed.

Eminent domain has traditionally been understood as the power of government to take private property for a public use, like a road or a public school. The erosion of the term, “public use” has been completely bastardized by the courts and corporations. So much so that corporations now have the ability to seize property almost as soon as it files a condemnation proceeding and the legal authority for the taking is established — in simple terms, it means they can haggle over “just compensation” later.

It’s called “quick take,” and it’s being used across the United States by fossil fuel corporations to victimize and terrorize families by taking their land and paying later, or in some cases not at all.

PG&E’s intimidation and threat to Mr. Gard and his family home and business isn’t just his problem it belongs to all of us. The rights of corporations over the individual is wrong.

At its core the ability of a corporation to foster eminent domain for private gain with the blessing of our government and our courts is an abomination of the intent of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution that provides “. . . nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The key words being “public use.”

Public was not meant to be a private-for-profit corporation. And, while it’s even more important here, I won’t even get into the myths about natural gas being a clean energy; let’s just say it’s anything but clean.

Southern Oregon landowners from Klamath, Jackson, Douglas and Coos counties have been fighting our own eminent domain battle against the Pacific Connector Pipeline for over a decade and we stand in solidarity with the Gard Family.

No eminent domain for private gain.

Stacey McLaughlin, Myrtle Creek. Oregon

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