Eminent Domain Reform has died in the Texas legislature. Please click this link for a Texas Tribune article describing what happened to the reform legislation.
The Texas legislature is considering eminent domain reform during the current session. In this video, Landowner Condemnation Rights Attorney Philip Hundl reviews the status of the eminent domain reform bills being considered in the House and Senate. For an appointment with Mr. Hundl, please call 800-266-4870.
Summary of the Video
- Texas eminent domain reform bills are being considered now in the Legislature. Most of the focus is on Senate Bill 421 and House Bill 991. They are companion bills and are very similar.
- Mr. Hundl recently attended a public hearing related to the bills conducted by the Land and Resource Management Committee. He listened to testimony from landowners and industry representatives.
- Senate Bill 421 has been revised and the Land and Resource Management Committee has reported favorably on the substituted version of the bill.
- The revised version of Senate Bill 421 now includes additional requirements for a bonafide offer to the landowner. These requirements would provide more appraisal and market information to help the landowner evaluate the pipeline company’s offer.
- Senate Bill 421 adds standard provisions in easement agreements to make them less pipeline friendly and more friendly to landowners.
- The current eminent domain reform effort also provides requirements for a property owners’ meeting. There’s been a lot of back and forth negotiation over these requirements — who could attend and what would be covered. As an example the current version of the bill limits attendance to five owners from any tract of land to respond to the worry that these meetings would attract many non-interested parties and be counter-productive.
- Legiscan Texas provides a dashboard for following the progress of legislation. Please click this link to download a pdf version of the current bill.
- If you’re a landowner affected by a condemnation project, you should talk with an experienced condemnation rights attorney before you sign any agreements with a right of way agent or pipeline company. A focus of Mr. Hundl’s law practice is representing landowners in property condemnation and you can schedule an appointment by calling 800-266-4870.
Pipelines to be Protected as Critical Infrastructure
Texas lawmakers are also considering a bill that would increase penalties for those who damage or trespass around oil and gas operations. Republicans say the measure that passed the Texas Senate on Monday would not limit legal protests but would deter people from damaging any property deemed critical infrastructure. Republican Rep. Chris Paddie’s bill would classify privately-owned pipelines as critical infrastructure , which would put them in the same category as power plants and water treatment facilities. It would protect any property deemed critical infrastructure. Click this link to download the text of the bill.
Articles Related to Texas Eminent Domain Reform
- Time to Reform Eminent Domain to Better Protect Texas Property Owners
- Texas lawmakers may stiffen penalties for pipeline damage
- Texas Tribune – Oil or Property Rights
- Eminent Domain vs. Condemnation
- Landowner Rights in Property Condemnation — A Pipeline Example
Transcript of the Texas Eminent Domain Reform Update Video
– Hi, I’m Philip Hundl. I’m an attorney with Land Rights Law, PLLC. My practice area consists of land litigation, primarily representing land owners facing condemnation or eminent domain related to pipelines, power lines, or highway construction or expansion.
I’d like to talk right now about what’s going on in the Texas legislature. There’s several eminent domain reform bills. They’ve been in the news, they’ve been in the newspapers. You’ve probably heard about Senate Bill 421 and House Bill 991. They’re very similar bills. They call them companion bills. Recently, April 25th, there was a committee meeting that had hearings, a public hearing related to this bill and I attended those in Austin.
It was extremely interesting. Lots of testimony. It lasted much of the day, into the evening. The Land and Resource Management Committee is the name of the committee that reviewed various eminent domain bills focused mostly on Senate Bill 421 and House Bill 991. I heard lots of testimony from land owners and also the industry, pipeline companies or producers. The midstream, the upstream, the downstream part of the industry.
What’s come from that committee hearing and then also just the legislative process is the Senate Bill 421 has been substituted or revised. They have different terms for it. This is actually called the engrossed version or substituted version, or revised version. It has been favorably commented on by the committee recently, just a few days ago. I believe, May 16th it was reported favorably the substituted version of Senate Bill 421. I want to just hit briefly on what that bill now looks like.
It has some requirements of what needs to be included in a bonafide offer. There were requirements before, now there’s some additional requirements on what constitute a bonafide offer. To the land owner, a big part of what the legislature is trying to address is the land owner receiving and having more information so that the land owner can evaluate the offer that the pipeline company, in this case we’ll call it the pipeline company, offers to the land owner so that the land owner can evaluate that offer based upon information, appraisals, market information.
Then another component of the original bill that hasn’t changed much in the substituted version, but it was the required provisions in the easement agreement. Right now, pipeline easement agreements are very much pipeline friendly, or I’ll just say they’re lean on terms that limit their activities or restrict their activities and provide more protections to the land owners. So this legislation of this bill, I think it’s trying to address that. So there’s quite a few additional, they’re now calling them kind of standard provisions that need to be required by law, and those are also still set out in this proposed bill.
The part that there’s been quite a bit of push back or push-and-pull, back and forth is a required property owners’ meeting. And so, this substituted version has more information about the property owners’ meeting and what’s required and how that is supposed to be conducted, scheduled, who can attend. Before it was mentioned, or it wasn’t really outlined who could attend that property owners’ meeting and the fear was that many non-interested parties would attend the property owners’ meeting, would be counterproductive from the standpoint of the pipeline company. So, there’s some restrictions on who can attend the property owners’ meeting. Just one example, I believe my interpretation of the bill says that there can only be five representatives or property owners for each particular tract. So also, this substituted bill talks about essentially the meeting agenda and what needs to be covered at that property owners’ meeting which I think is a great idea, because if not, a property owner meeting quote on quote for one pipeline company may look very, very different on what’s covered by another pipeline company’s property owner meeting. So I think it does a good job at trying to set out for the pipeline companies, this is what you should cover or this is what you have to cover if this substituted bill passes and becomes law, what you have to cover at a property owners’ meeting. So I think that’s a step in the right direction.
Once again, very interesting things happening right now as we speak regarding this legislation. Very interested to see what happens and how it unfolds. So, pay attention to this. I get a lot of my information from Legiscan. L E G I S C A N on the internet. It covers all the different legislation or bills in the Senate and the House in Texas. And so it can give you updates on the tracking of those bills as well. And then also, information from the news, newspapers, and then also attending hearings in person. Once again, trying to stay up to date on the latest and greatest. I’ll keep you informed as I know. And please, on your own, do the same to be informed as land owners.
Once again, if you’re a land owner facing condemnation, please be careful. You’ve got many rights and protections that are allowed to you and you need to know about those and you need to exercise those rights. You’re not required to sign the first thing that’s put in front of you, so please be careful before signing any document, legal document. Please make sure that you understand what you’re giving up or what you’re gaining, if that’s the case. And then also seek an attorney that is familiar and experienced in condemnation matters, okay. Thank you.