STATE LEGISLATURES MUST PROTECT PRIVATE PROPERTY FROM CARBON SEIZURE
Guest post by J. Christopher Alexander
In 2020 Louisiana Republican State Senator Sharon Hewitt authored the passage of legislation in Louisiana that declares that the practice of “carbon capture and sequestration” (CCS) is a “public good” as a matter of public policy. As such, private energy companies may now seize the private property of Louisiana citizens to transport carbon dioxide that has been “captured” from the atmosphere, eventually to be stored underground on private land. The general practice is known as eminent domain and is
based in the last clause of the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution.
The original purpose of eminent domain was to provide a way for the government to expropriate private property, for fair market value, upon a specific showing that such property is needed to serve a substantial public use or benefit, such as the construction of a vital water system or a bridge that facilitates transportation for the general public. The burden of proof was on the government to show that the proposed expropriation served a vital public interest and that the property owner was fairly compensated.
Under Hewitt’s law, however, the use of eminent domain in Louisiana has been dangerously expanded to not just include, but to favor, private companies. This means that basic rights private property owners previously had in opposing the expropriation of their land have been further eroded. No longer will a specific showing of public necessity be required, and no longer will the government be required to initiate the process. The fundamental right of private property is now subordinated, by law, to broad-scale carbon capture and sequestration by private entities. To be clear, Louisiana law now contains a presumption in favor of the corporate seizure of private property and a presumption against private property rights. This is dangerous and scary.
In response, Louisiana Representative Robby Carter has offered House Bill 10, which would repeal the eminent domain provision in the current law. If it passes, private companies would be prohibited from using eminent domain to acquire property rights for carbon capture processes without the property owner’s consent. This legislation is critical, as it would reassert the importance of private property rights and that those rights may not be subjugated to for-profit entities without the approval of property owners.
Regardless of how one may feel about the whole carbon capture enterprise, or about the actual reality of man-caused climate change, we should all be able to agree that private property is a value that is worth standing up for in the face of corporate interests whose desire for profits is thinly concealed behind the façade of protecting the environment. We are all for profits, and for free enterprise, but not at the cost of violating a basic American right.
If you live in Louisiana, please contact the following members of the House Natural Resources Committee and urge your strong support for House Bill 10, and follow the legislation all the way through the legislative process, making your voice heard all the way:
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J. Christopher Alexander
Louisiana Citizen Advocacy Group
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