Sen. Curry bill to protect property owners and improve Maine’s eminent domain laws signed into law

Posted: April 30, 2024 | Energy, Utilities and Technology, Senator Curry

AUGUSTA — On Monday, April 22, Gov. Janet T. Mills signed into law a bill by Sen. Chip Curry, D-Belfast. LD 2087, “An Act to Protect Property Owners by Making Certain Changes to the Laws Governing the Use of Eminent Domain by Transmission and Distribution Utilities,” establishes protections for property owners, ensuring a more fair, transparent and responsible process for siting energy infrastructure.

“This law is a significant advancement in safeguarding the rights of property owners across Maine and ensuring that our eminent domain laws serve the public interest with fairness and transparency,” said Sen. Curry. “This legislation empowers property owners and creates a responsible approach to developing essential energy infrastructure. I thank the Governor for her support.”

LD 2087 introduces several significant property owner protections. These measures include:

  • Notices and education for landowners: Landowners will receive clear notices and educational materials if their land is affected by or abutting a proposed route. These notices will ensure landowners understand their rights and highlight all the opportunities for public participation. They must be sent this information via certified mail, which will be paid for by the developer.
  • Offers must be for an easement and for purchase of the whole property: If utilities need to use private land, they must provide two compensation offers to the landowner – one for the whole property and the other for just the piece they need, also called an easement. Landowners can then decide if they would prefer to sell all of their land or agree to the easement.
  • Minimize the need for crossing private land: The Bureau of Parks and Lands must establish rules that allow transmission lines to cross certain public lands and avoid private lands.
  • Utility companies pay for legal and expert fees: If a utility takes land through eminent domain, they’re responsible for covering the landowner’s legal and expert fees, under certain conditions.
  • Community meetings for new projects: Developers must hold public meetings to discuss new transmission line projects before applying for permits, ensuring community voices are heard.
  • Public involvement in environmental decisions: The Board of Environmental Protection must hold public hearings for new transmission line licenses, allowing community input.

LD 2087 is an emergency measure and took effect immediately upon being signed by the Governor.