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Sen. Tom Brewer: Concerns about wind energy, eminent domain before the legislature

My priority bill, LB 155, was advanced to general file out of the Natural Resources Committee this week. I want to thank the chairman of this committee, Sen. Dan Hughes, for his help doing this. Since I’ve been in the legislature, I have been trying to get a bill that addresses the many concerns my constituents have with wind energy voted out of committee to the floor of the legislature.

I also want to thank my constituents, and people from all over the state, who came to the hearing and testified in support of my bill. For over two years, many of my constituents have driven over 1,000 miles round trip, in winter weather, over treacherous roads, in the middle of calving season, to support the bills I have introduced. I cannot thank them enough. They truly are the embodiment of the “Second House” that was envisioned for our Unicameral Legislature.

Despite the many misrepresentations and out-right falsehoods the opponents of LB 155 made in their testimony to the Natural Resources Committee, the bill is very simple. It repeals one sentence from the law:

In Chapter 70, Section 1014.02, subparagraph (5) the last sentence reads: “The exercise of eminent domain to provide needed transmission lines and related facilities for a privately developed renewable energy generation facility is a public use.”

LB 155 strikes this sentence from the law. This is all the bill does. Nothing more. People can see for themselves here: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/bills/view_bill.php?DocumentID=37251

I want this sentence repealed from the law because it is morally wrong to give private citizens the government power of eminent domain over their neighbors just so they can make money. Imagine Tom and Tony are neighboring ranchers. Tony loves wind energy and welcomes the construction of massive turbines on his place. Tony needs an interconnect (feeder) powerline across Tom’s ranch to connect his wind farm to the power grid. Tom doesn’t like Tony’s wind farm and refuses to grant him a voluntary easement for the powerline. Tony contacts Nebraska Public Power District and cites this law. Because his wind farm is considered a “public use” NPPD uses its power of eminent domain against Tom and the powerline is built on Tony’s behalf, and there is nothing Tom can do about it.

Should a private citizen engaged in a private activity have the ability to use the government power of eminent domain against his neighbor so he can make money? This is the question that will be debated by the legislature in the weeks to come. I hope people follow this debate. I hope they take a minute and tell their State Senator how they feel about it.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; tbrewer@leg.ne.gov. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at 402-471-2628.