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Our drive to keep eminent domain use as a last resort has resulted in agreements with landowners on more than 96 percent of our transactions. This level of agreement is rare on any issue, and we are grateful to the many landowners who work with us to negotiate fair compensation and build the power lines and substations that communities need.
New power lines invariably bring about the issue of public use of private property. While most people can appreciate the difficulties landowners face when private property is needed for public purposes, they also can appreciate how difficult it would be to provide essential utilities without it. Eminent domain for public uses – like roads, electricity and water – is in the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Georgia’s Constitution and even in the Magna Carta to protect communities’ interests. It keeps one person or group from stopping a community from getting the services it needs.
While eminent domain is necessary, we try to keep its use to a minimum. We pride ourselves on the openness and cooperative spirit that govern our activities. For most new lines, we conduct open-house style public meetings where we exchange information about the project and discuss local conditions and landowners’ concerns. Meanwhile, we negotiate fair compensation one-on-one with each property owner. We generally acquire easements – which are limited property rights – for power lines and fee simple property for substations.
In most cases, agreements are achieved quickly. However, some owners hold out for court action as a negotiation tactic and some prefer for compensation to be decided in court. Regardless, most cases are settled before being heard. Excluding cases we file to simply clear up ownership questions, less than four percent of our transactions this decade have been heard by a court-appointed special master.