Railroad drops eminent domain case against landowners in Northeast Wyoming
Northeast Wyoming – “Due to significant changes in the economic climate, DM&E cannot say that there is a reasonable probability that it will proceed with its Powder River Basin project in the immediate term,” reads the notice of dismiss without prejudice filed by the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad Corporation (DM&E) on Aug. 26.
In 2007 DM&E had filed in U.S. District Court in Casper for the use of eminent domain in northeastern Wyoming for a new rail line to the Powder River Basin. The case affected 14 landowners and has been in court for the past several years. It would have given them rights-of-way to around 1,200 linear acres in Converse, Weston, Campbell and Niobrara counties.
DM&E was able to secure the right to exercise eminent domain in South Dakota, but that regulatory decision had been appealed.
In addition to the national economic situation, the railroad lists the regulatory climate as uncertain given the new administration and pending or proposed legislation affecting the coal and rail industries.
“This has resulted in a longer timeframe for commencement of the project than anticipated at the time these condemnation actions were filed,” says DM&E in the dismissal document.
“We really feel strongly that this is a win for the landowners because if they thought they were going to win they would have continued with it,” says Nancy Darnell of Newcastle, who was involved with the case along with husband Donley.
Although the company says it plans to proceed with necessary milestones it dismissed the condemnation for now because they will not need the requested property in the immediate term.
“We felt that DM&E never offered us anything we could accept,” says Darnell of negotiations. “At the moment we don’t yet know if they’ll come back and offer us something that we can.”
“I was pleased, but not surprised,” she says of receiving news the railroad had dropped the suit. “We’re glad we don’t have the lawsuit hanging over us anymore.”
Should DM&E renew its effort to implement eminent domain, it will now have to follow different statutes, which went into effect July 1, 2007, just a few days after the original lawsuit was filed June 28.
“With the delays now occasioned by external circumstances, there is no need to engage in further litigation over that objection as dismissing the action will permit Defendants and DM&E to restart negotiations under the new statute when there is more certainty regarding those external circumstances,” write the DM&E attorneys.
DM&E and Canadian Pacific, which purchased DM&E after the lawsuit began, remain vague about the company’s future plans to develop or not develop.
Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.