By: Whytni Willis-Cline
The Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) has decided to install a 100-mile electrical transmission line starting in Reynolds, Indiana and ending in Topeka, Indiana.[i] This line called the “Reynolds-Topeka Project” is being used to connect three major substations in Indiana.[ii] The powerline will cross seven counties in Northern Indiana, including White, Pulanski, Starke, Marshall, Kosciusko, Elkhart, and LaGrange.[iii] This $270 million dollar transmission line is supposed to help improve Indiana’s access to wind and solar renewable energy and maybe even lower the cost of energy and reduce greenhouse gases.[iv]
However, this new powerline has been a matter of dispute with local Northern Indiana farmers who are complaining that the 100-mile powerline is interfering with their farms. NIPSCO used eminent domain to buy land rights from hundreds of landowners in order to get a 200-foot-wide easement for the powerline.[v] Eminent domain is the governmental right to take property for public use upon the payment of just compensation.[vi] Common examples of eminent domain include taking for roadway purposes, redevelopment in downtown areas, and for installation of utilities such as electric transmission lines.[vii] According to an Indiana statute, a corporation in Indiana authorized to transport or distribute electrical energy to the public, town, or city may take, acquire, condemn, and appropriate land, real estate or any interest in the land or real estate to accomplish the delivery of services.[viii]
NIPSCO has received easements for more than 500 properties along the route.[ix] Many of the farmers from these properties claim that the powerline is being built too close to existing structures and will therefore interfere with harvesting crops.[x] One farmer in particular, William Babchuk, stated that he wanted to build his daughters’ homes on his land, but if the powerline plans continue, the line will diagonally cut through his property and he will be unable to do so.[xi] Some farmers have gone so far as to state that financial stresses due to the powerline may encourage more of them to abandon what they see as an increasingly difficult occupation.[xii] However, the companyNIPSCO claims that it has tried to meet the farmers’ needs and “be a good neighbor,” but no matter whatit is indisputable that, a project this size will cause inconveniences.[xiii] In additionF, farmers will, however, receive compensation for crop damage that occurs due to the installation of the powerline.[xiv]
The project has been approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, who is responsible for regulating Indiana’s utilities, and the powerline is supposed to be completed by mid-2018.[xv] Many farmers and landowners have been referring to the Reynolds-Topeka Project as a “disaster,” and have been speaking with the Indiana Farm Bureau about their complaints.[xvi]
[i] Reynolds Topeka Transmission Line Project, LandOwnerAttorneys.com, http://landownerattorneys.com/reynolds-topeka-transmission-line-project/ (lLast visited June 5, 2017).
[ii] Virginia Black, Rural Land Targeted for New Powerline, South Bend Tribune (May 31, 2015), http://www.southbendtribune.com/news/local/rural-land-targeted-for-new-power-line/article_4d796166-29ba-50bb-ab4f-0b438be51b60.html.
[iii] Reynolds Topeka Transmission Line Project, LandOwnerAttorneys.com, http://landownerattorneys.com/reynolds-topeka-transmission-line-project/ (lLast visited June 5, 2017).
[v] NIPSCO Defends Powerline Against Critics, The J. Gazette (May 23,2017, 1:00 AM), http://www.journalgazette.net/news/local/indiana/20170523/nipsco-defends-powerline-against-critics.
[viii] Ind. Code §32-24-4-1 (2006).
[ix] NIPSCO Defends Powerline Against Critics, The J. Gazette (May 23,2017, 1:00 AM), http://www.journalgazette.net/news/local/indiana/20170523/nipsco-defends-powerline-against-critics.
[xvi] Virginia Black, Rural Land Targeted for New Powerline, South Bend Tribune (May 31, 2015), http://www.southbendtribune.com/news/local/rural-land-targeted-for-new-power-line/article_4d796166-29ba-50bb-ab4f-0b438be51b60.html.