Montana-alberta Transmission Line Developer Wants Eminent Domain Power to Overcome Landowner’s Resistance

Michael Giberson

The Montana-Alberta Tie Line, a transmission project linking Alberta and Western U.S. power markets, has stalled over the resistance of one landowner, who has claimed the proposed line would cross wetlands and native American heritage sites on her land. MATL tried exercising eminent domain last July to take the easement it wants, but late last year a court ruled the private company does not have that authority. The court case has headed to the Montana Supreme Court. The state legislature has debated bills to clarify legal authority in such cases – one way or another – but it looks like they may take no action instead.

MATL offers a  map of the proposed line on its website. The property under dispute is described as east of Cut Bank, Montana (near the substation at the line’s midpoint).

Environmental groups and energy development interests in the state have tended to side with MATL. While this particular line may have modest effects on the ability of local grids to take wind power, these interests are looking forward to the next transmission line battle and want the ability to condemn the private property when they deem it necessary.

From the National Eminent Domain Blog:

Apparently, Montana Alberta Tie Line is seeking to have the Montana Supreme Court act as a legislature. There has been no delegation allowing the utility to condemn under the Montana Major Facility Siting Act. Despite this, MATL wants the Montana Supreme Court to find a delegation of authority to condemn even though no such permission exists under present Montana legislation.

Of course MATL disputes the claim of “no delegation,” see their opening brief filed at the Montana Supreme Court, linked below.