All these years fighting pipelines, I’m surprised I don’t remember learning about the concept of expropriation. On the other hand, I learned about eminent domain from the beginnings of opposing pipelines and protecting water.

Expropriation is the act of a government taking private property; Eminent Domain is the legal term describing the government’s right to do so.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Fifth Amendment, U.S. Constitution

July 16, 2020, Lake Charles, LA – Today, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal for the State of Louisiana ruled that the Bayou Bridge Pipeline Company (BBP) violated the due process rights of landowners when it constructed an oil pipeline across their property before acquiring the legal rights to do so. The construction – including clearing trees, trenching, and laying pipe – took place across privately owned land in the ecologically sensitive Atchafalaya Basin. The court awarded each of the property owners $10,000 and legal fees. 

In its decision, the court wrote: 

When BBP consciously ordered construction to begin on this property prior to obtaining a judicial determination of the public and necessary purpose for that taking, it not only trampled Defendants’ due process rights as landowners, it eviscerated the constitutional protections laid out to specifically protect those property rights. 

“When we first considered taking on BBP, it was conventional wisdom that you couldn’t win against a pipeline company in Louisiana, but we wanted to do what was right regardless,” said landowner Peter Aaslestad. “For others out there thinking they can’t win, I hope this victory shows that they can, and that these companies cannot simply do what they want, run roughshod over people’s rights, and get away with a small fine as the cost of doing business.”  

“The court’s decision rightly takes BBP to task for its blatant disregard and abuse of the law and landowners in Louisiana,” said Pam Spees, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and one of the attorneys for the landowners. “BBP made a calculated decision that violating the law was cheaper than following it, and the lower court’s ruling let them get away with it. This decision is an important reminder to companies like BBP, and more importantly to small landowners, that these rights mean something.” 

The landowners opposed the expropriation and filed counterclaims for trespass and violations of their constitutional rights. In reversing the trial court and finding that BBP violated the land owners’ rights to due process, the Court of Appeal noted that “BBP’s conduct clearly shows no fear of the consequences of trampling on property owner’s constitutionally protected due process rights.”

Appeals Court Rules Bayou Bridge Pipeline Company ‘Trampled’ Landowners’ Rights, Center for Constitutional Rights, July 16, 2020

One of the purposes of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March (September, 2018) was to call attention to the abuse of the use of eminent domain to force landowners to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to be constructed on their property, whether they wanted to, or not.

This entry was posted in #NDAPL, Indigenous, Native Americans, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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