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  • Writer's pictureAllison Kite, Kansas Reflector

Kansas bill would prohibit use of eminent domain to build solar farms

A Kansas Senate committee is considering legislation that would prohibit use of eminent domain in building solar power generation facilities. (Sirisak Boakaew/Getty Images)


By Allison Kite, Kansas Reflector


Utilities would be prohibited from taking private land using eminent domain to build solar farms under legislation Kansas lawmakers weighed Monday.


Eminent domain authority allows governments or utility companies to take private property for public use, including to build roads, bridges and power lines. Property owners are still compensated at market value but can have their land taken if they don’t agree to sell.


The practice has come under scrutiny, especially in Missouri, as developers prepare to build a high-voltage transmission line from Kansas to the Indiana border.


But a bill the Kansas Senate Utilities Committee heard Monday would prohibit the use of eminent domain to build solar panels on private land. Utilities are already prohibited from using eminent domain to build wind farms.


“It makes sense to us to send that to solar, as many of our members are being approached for a number of solar facilities,” said Jackie Garagiola, associate counsel for the Kansas Livestock Association. 


The bill was backed by farm and livestock groups and one fourth-generation farmer who said her family’s land is being taken by eminent domain for a transmission line. The farmer, Rochelle Smart, also urged the committee to prohibit use of eminent domain for large power lines.


Smart said companies had been allowed to “bully” landowners to sell easements to allow power lines to be built on their land.


“These power lines go directly through the middle of our farms and ranches,” Smart said. “This is vital land to our operations.” 


Kimberly Gencur Svaty, a lobbyist for the Advanced Power Alliance, said the organization, which represents renewable energy and transmission line developers, was neutral on the bill.


The companies the alliance represents don’t have eminent domain power. They largely construct and sell generation facilities or the power from them to utilities. 


“So when a wind farm is built, when a solar facility is built, battery storage, … those are all agreements between willing landowners with no threat of eminent domain and the developer themselves,” Gencur Svaty said.


The bill would, however, affect public utilities, including Evergy and other investor-owned utilities, that do have eminent domain authority to build coal-or natural gas-fired power plants, Gencur Svaty said. 


“If we were to continue down the path of specifically carving out every 10, 15, 20 years a specific type of generation and saying that generation doesn’t have the right of eminent domain, we could find ourselves in a situation that’s a little problematic on down the line,” she said.


This article was reprinted with permission from the Kansas Reflector. The Kansas Reflector is a non-profit online news organization serving Kansas. For more information on the organization, go to its website at www.kansasreflector.com.

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