Judge Rules for North Dakota Landowner in Pipeline Dispute

Judge dismissed Montana-Dakota Utilities' eminent domain proceeding for a proposed natural gas pipeline

By Molly Priddy

MINOT, N.D. — A judge has dismissed Montana-Dakota Utilities’ eminent domain proceeding for a proposed natural gas pipeline in North Dakota.

North Central District Judge Gary Lee ruled May 29 that harm to private landowner Lavern Behm outweighed any public benefits from the pipeline, the Minot Daily News reported .

MDU sought an easement across Behm’s property in Burlington Township to build a 3,000-foot-long pipeline to service a BNSF Railway facility west of Minot. The railroad maintains and operates a switch heated in the winter with propane tanks near the private property. MDU proposed to replace the tanks with the underground pipeline, according to court records.

The natural gas utility obtained the necessary permits and approvals from state and federal agencies but had to resort to eminent domain to cross the private land.

State law prohibits private property from being taken for ownership or use of any private individual or entity unless the land is necessary for conducting a carrier or utility business.

Lee ruled that the proposed pipeline is convenient but not necessary for the utility because the propane tank option exists. He also said MDU didn’t give enough consideration to other options.

The decision is a “huge case for property rights, and the little guy,” said Lynn Boughey, Behm’s attorney.

MDU officials had no immediate comment, saying they’re still evaluating the decision.

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