Seward Signs On Eminent Domain Reform

James L. Seward

June 20, 2006

State Senator James L. Seward is cosponsoring legislation (S.8349) that would prohibit the use of eminent domain by New York Regional Interconnect (NYRI) to acquire land for its power line. The bill could be voted on this week.

"The law needs to be reformed to protect private property," Senator Seward said. "Eminent domain, rightly understood, can be used for public projects like water, sewer, roads and bridges that result in the public good. It’s wrong that a private, for profit company can use that power to remove people from their property and build a power line that people don’t want and for which the need has yet to be proven."

NYRI representatives testified at a hearing by the Senate Energy Committee in Norwich on Thursday, June 15, that they filed as a transportation corporation under New York State Law and as such will be able to use the power of eminent domain. Eminent domain is a legal tool which is used for the taking of private property, but in the past has been reserved for public projects. A vast expansion of that power by the U.S. Supreme Court under the Kelo v. New London decision has triggered calls for reforms of eminent domain.

Under a section of New York’s Transportation Corporation Law, electric companies like NYRI are able to condemn private property. Across the nation, states have been attempting to limit the ability of property to be taken for private benefit.

"New York State Law should not allow NYRI to take our residents’ property for NYRI's profit. The legislation introduced by majority senators will stop that," Seward said. "We are not going to stand and see our landscape blighted and energy costs hiked to feed New York City's appetite for energy."