Open Beaches Act, eminent domain up for discussion
The Texas House Land and Resource Management Committee will get some heated testimony today as it looks into issues involving property rights, 1200 WOAI news reports.
One of the key issues will be the right of pipeline companies to seize land under eminent domain. Northeast and east Texas property owners were among the loudest opponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which remains in eminent domain legal actions against dozens of property owners in an attempt to seize property along the pipeline's route.
Pipeline companies are considered to be 'public utilities' under state eminent domain law, which allows them the same rights to seize property as a local utility or school district.
The problem, according to property rights advocates, is that eminent domain is meant to be used to build projects which benefit the local area, like a school, a road, or a water project. Pipelines carry oil and other products from one distant location to another and do nothing to benefit the local areas.
Activist Terri Hall is also blasting the committee for taking testimony from paid lobbyists, but not from the general public.
"Once again Texas politicians are talking tough on eminent domain, but at today's hearing there will be invited testimony only," hall said. "There are landowners all over this state who have had their property rights stolen, and it's time for Texas officials to hear from them and take action."
Another property rights issue that the committee will consider is the State Open Beaches Act.
Unlike California, where beach land is famously fenced off to the public, Texas law requires that all beaches be public property 'up to the dune line.'
But in a case that stemmed from Hurricane Ike in 2008, in which the shores of Galveston Island were eroded beyond the dune line, a court ruled that the remaining property in front of beachfront homes is in fact private property, essentially allowing private beaches in Texas for the first time ever.
Activists on both issues are demanding that measures be introduced in the Legislature to deal with these issues.