The blogs are abuzz with the news that Utah Governor Gary Herbert has signed state legislation authorizing state use of eminent domain to take federal land, and transfer its ownership to the state. Evidently, the state folks are bent out of shape because half of Utah land is owned by the feds, so they want some of it so they can tax it.
So far, we have not seen any economic projections as to the cost of this caper. There is much talk out there about taking that federal land, but we haven’t seen much mention of the fact that when you exercise the power of eminent domain you have to pay just compensation for what you take, and so far, no one seems to be assuring the Utah electorate that a taking of federal land on so large a scale scale will be affordable to the state. Where have we seen that before?
So stay tuned and see what happens. If nothing else, this legal fight should prove to be entertaining to watch since the smart money has it that a state may not condemn federal property.
Follow up. For a good article about this affair, see Jim Carlton, Utah Sets Its Sights On Seizing U.S. Land, Wall St. Jour., March 30, 2010, at p. A5, from which we learn that a major factor in the Utah legislature’s decision was the fact that last month the feds cancelled 77 drilling leases in Utah, that the locals expected to yield revenues to be used for schools.
Follow up. For the New York Times’ take on this item see http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2010/04/01/01greenwire-utah-eminent-domain-law-more-than-a-message-bi-25839.html?pagewanted=2