11.11.2011 0

A win for residents of the Ozarks

By Rebecca DiFede — A few months ago the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a 28 page ruling that stood to leave over a thousand people homeless near the Lake of the Ozarks in favor of a hydroelectric project funded by Ameren Energy Corporation.

People were furious, as they had paid for the title and insurance on their homes, expecting to be able to live them out, and then were all of a sudden told to move. The decision to evacuate the area was given to Ameren by FERC as a condition of the project. Ameren claims to own part of the land that borders the 93 mile lake and as such believes they have the right to build there.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) said of the fiasco, “This situation is outrageous and needs to be resolved immediately for the people who have lived in houses and paid taxes on this property for years, and in some cases, decades.”

A bitter battle ensued, including several lawsuits, where the homeowners were fighting the government for the rights to homes that they owned, a process as arduous as it is inane.

But on Thursday, FERC came out with a statement rescinding the order, stating that all homes with current land titles and easements were not required to be removed. They said that the order was misunderstood by the homeowners and that they were never intending on removing homes that were current with their paperwork.

Despite this generous apology, it looks more like they were just covering their tracks. The government has once again tried to put its hands into the cookie jar, only to get slapped away by the angry hands of the citizens.

The citizens of the Ozarks had every reason to be concerned about the government’s challenges to their private property rights. In New London, CT in July of 2005, the Supreme Court mandated that homes be taken in Kelo vs. New London. In this case the government manipulated the laws to expand eminent domain within the Fifth Amendment to include removing homes for “public purpose” rather than “public use” when in reality it was anything but.

Because the project in question was for economic redevelopment, the court held that it was legal under the Fifth Amendment to use eminent domain. Thereby setting a dangerous precedent that for the right reasons, the government can take away private property to benefit a private corporation.

With this in place, it might not be long before the government sets its sights on another group of homes for some “public purpose” and takes them away to benefit a private company with similar interests.

But perhaps the tide is turning thanks to the residents of the Ozarks. Let us hope so.

Rebecca DiFede is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government.

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