Eminent domain refers to the ability of the government to take private property for public use. For instance, the government may be able to exercise this ability when constructing an interstate, building a hospital or planning a military base. When land is needed for public works, this can sometimes override a property owner’s rights to use the land as they see fit.
As a general rule, this power is only supposed to be wielded by the government. In Texas, however, property owners have something called the Landowner’s Bill of Rights. Among other things, this bill of rights helps to define how eminent domain can be used. Those in Texas may actually have fewer rights than they realize – despite the name of this document – because it states that: “Your property can only be taken by a governmental entity or private entity authorized by law to do so.”
In practicality, this often means that the government gives this ability to energy companies. They are looking for land to drill for oil, to build wind farms and things of this nature. These companies may be allowed to take or lease private property for use on these projects.
One crucial thing to remember, however, is that property owners deserve just compensation for their land. It doesn’t matter if it is the government officially taking that land or an energy company that has been authorized by the government. Either way, the landowner should get proper lease or rental payments, or they should get fair market value for their land to purchase it outright.
Often, disputes happen when property owners do not want to sell or when they don’t agree on just compensation. These disputes can be very complex, and all involved need to understand their legal options.