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New Data on Eminent Domain in Texas

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September 7, 2016

Eminent domain. It's one of the oldest and most controversial powers governments have, the power to seize or use private property for a "public good."

The Texas and federal constitutions both stipulate a landowner subject to eminent domain must be compensated — but that's not the same thing as having a say in the decision.

Of course, some use of eminent domain is inevitable and even essential. Without access to private land, we wouldn't have roads, sewers, electric power grids and pipelines. But a power this sweeping is one that should be watched very carefully indeed.

The number of entities with eminent domain powers has risen sharply over the years. Literally thousands of entities in Texas, both governments and private companies with delegated authority, claim some form of eminent domain power.

To get a better handle on the extent of eminent domain in Texas, my office assembled the first-ever online database of entities claiming this power in Texas. This week we're unveiling that database.

It contains more than 5,000 entities, including cities, counties, school districts, special-purpose districts, pipeline and energy companies, water supply corporations and other public and private entities. For each, you'll be able to view:

  • the entity's name and contact information;
  • the date upon which the entity claims to have been authorized to exercise eminent domain authority;
  • whether the entity filed a condemnation petition in calendar 2015;
  • the projects or purposes for which the entity holds eminent domain authority;
  • and the provisions of the law granting the entity authority.

This is clearly an area in which transparency is essential. Knowing who can use eminent domain is a first step to ensuring that this important but potentially oppressive power is used wisely and well.

For more information, please visit our online eminent domain database.

Thank you for all you do for Texas, and God bless.

Glenn Hegar