How Tax Cuts and Eminent Domain Got Tangled Up
Posted in Projects

The debate over the extensions of some of the Bush-era tax cuts have been making national news for some time.  It's splattered all over the newspaper and has its own running commentary on the political talk shows. 

But today, there's a different twist for those of us who deal with eminent domain.  Congress is debating the extension of the payroll taxes yet again, but this time, a major eminent domain issue is wrapped up in the fray.

Specifically, Republicans in Congress had said they planned to couple the extension of the tax cuts with a requirement to fast-track approval of a controversial pipeline project that President Obama previously planned to delay until at least 2013

The Keystone XL pipeline is intended to link oil fields in Canada with refineries in Oklahoma more than 1,500 miles away.  It has been the subject of considerable controversy, largely from environmentalists, but also from property-rights advocates objecting to the massive eminent domain that the project would entail.  

A November 7 article by Jonathan Mariano, Keystone XL Pipeline Relies on Eminent Domain for Success, explains:

The fight against the Keystone XL pipeline has been mostly an environmental fight, but quite frankly, not everyone is an environmentalist and may not resonate with this message. However, eminent domain may just provide enough common ground for the environmentalist and non-environmentalist alike.

So what happened?  This afternoon, Republicans in the House passed the payroll tax cut package, 234-193.  Included in the package is a requirement to accelerate approval of the Keystone XL project.  But the Republicans' "victory" may be illusory, as explained by Lisa Mascaro in a December 13 Los Angeles Times article, House approves payroll tax cut extension, with strings attached:

But the Republican win is expected to be short lived, as the bill has limited chances in the Senate, where Democrats oppose the GOP priorities . . . added to the bill to win Republican votes, including one to accelerate the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

(As an amusing aside for those of us who have heard the name Susette Kelo more times than we can possibly imagine, one of the most vocal opponents of the Keystone project and its use of eminent domain is named, ironically enough, Sue Kelso.  An October 17 article in the New York Times, Eminent Domain Fight Has a Canadian Twist, talks about Ms. Kelso's part of the story.)

  • Rick E. Rayl

    Rick Rayl is an experienced litigator on a broad range of complex civil litigation issues.  His practice is concentrated primarily on eminent domain, inverse condemnation, and other real-estate-valuation disputes.  His public ...

California Eminent Domain Report is a one-stop resource for everything new and noteworthy in eminent domain. We cover all aspects of eminent domain, including condemnation, inverse condemnation and regulatory takings. We also keep track of current cases, project announcements, budget issues, legislative reform efforts and report on all major eminent domain conferences and seminars in the Western United States.

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