The Montana Supreme Court has reversed a December 2010 district court decision that found that the developers of the Montana-Alberta Tie Line merchant transmission project do not possess eminent domain authority under Montana law and therefore could not take private land from a nonconsenting landowner. In its reversal, the state Supreme Court cited House Bill 198 that passed during the 2011 Montana legislative session, which bill grants eminent domain authority to any person issued a certificate under the state’s Major Facility Siting Act. The Supreme Court noted that because the legislation applies retroactively to persons issued a certificate after September 30, 2008, and the MATL developers received their certificate on October 22, 2008, HB 198 now expressly provides eminent authority to MATL’s developers. The district court must now reconsider its earlier decision in light of HB 198.
On a related note, Concerned Citizens Montana is driving a citizens’ referendum to repeal HB 198. If the petition receives enough signatures, Montana voters will decide HB 198’s fate in 2012.