Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a number of bills into law in recent months. Some have garnered national and even international headlines. Others are of interest primarily to those of us who live in Texas. One of these provides more requirements for companies that take people’s land using eminent domain laws.
The new law, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, gives landowners new protections when they’re negotiating with entities including railroads, utilities, pipeline and oil and gas companies that plan to take all or part of their land for “public use” projects.
Eminent domain laws have always been a source of controversy in Texas. The subject became even more controversial with Kinder Morgan’s Permian Highway Pipeline that runs for over 400 miles through Hill Country. It drew the attention and outrage of well-known landowners there including singers Paul Simon and Willie Nelson.
What does the new law do for landowners?
The legislation is a compromise after six years of negotiation with large companies and landowners. An earlier bill failed to pass two years ago. While the new law won’t stop big companies from taking land over the owners’ objections, it does provide some new requirements for those companies.
For example, those who are seizing the land must:
- Give landowners the contract terms and information about the process at the beginning of negotiations.
- Return the area surrounding their work to as close as they can get it to its original state.
- Compensate landowners for the surrounding land they don’t restore.
One state senator said that while the legislation didn’t give landowners as much as they would have liked, she believes it does give them more leverage in working with large, powerful companies that seize their land.
No landowner who’s being threatened with having their land taken should go up against a government entity or private company without experienced legal guidance. It’s crucial to be sure that your rights are protected and that you receive fair compensation.