In Texas, most energy companies can force you to sell or grant an easement on your land for a publicly used pipeline, wind farm or solar array. That is because the state of Texas has granted its condemnation power to energy projects for public use.
Condemnation, also known as “eminent domain,” is the power of a government to take property in its jurisdiction for public purposes, as long as adequate compensation is paid.
If you have received notice that an energy company plans to buy or use your land, you still have rights. Among them is the right to receive adequate compensation for your property. Determining what constitutes “adequate compensation” is a matter of individually assessing your land’s value.
The Texas landowner’s bill of rights
The state of Texas recognizes that it can only authorize the taking of your land if you receive proper notice, a reasonable offer for compensation and the right to a hearing. Here is a summary of the landowner’s bill of rights:
- You have the right to adequate compensation if your property is taken for public use.
- Your property can only be taken for a public use, not private advantage.
- Only a governmental entity or a designated entity can take your property.
- You have the right to notice before the entity can take your property.
- You have the right to receive a written appraisal by a certified appraiser to preliminarily determine the compensation you are owed.
- The entity proposing to take your property must make a bona fide, good faith offer to buy it before filing a lawsuit.
- You have the right to obtain your own appraisal or hire another professional to determine the value of your property.
- You have the right to hire an attorney to negotiate with the entity proposing to take your property and to represent you in legal proceedings.
- You are entitled to a hearing before a panel of special commissioners who will determine adequate compensation for your property, including any reduction in the value of your remaining property.
- If you are unsatisfied by the special commissioners’ award of compensation, or if you question whether the condemnation of your property would be proper, you have the right to a judge or jury trial and the right to appeal.
When an energy company (or a governmental entity) provides notice of intent to buy all or a part of your property, you have the right to challenge the purchase. You can challenge whether it is being done for a public purpose. You can challenge how the purchase has been handled. You can challenge, renegotiate, and ask for a hearing on the amount of compensation offered. You have the right to a trial and appeal.
All of these options are available to you, but you shouldn’t try to exercise them alone. Instead, contact an attorney who has previous experience with condemnation actions. The more experience your lawyer has, the better.