Reese, Sierra Club at Odds over Private Property Bill

Article excerpt

Associated Press

Rep. Jim Reese has a bill he says would protect state agencies from having to pay property owners for damages caused by a rule or regulation. The Sierra Club calls it the "Polluters Protection Act."

His House Bill 1812 deals with the "taking" of private property by a state agency. And among the definitions of "taking" would be any action of a state agency that has an impact on private property, including rules and regulations or the issuance of permits.

"This stems from a case in South Carolina in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that the state of South Carolina had infringed on a private property owner's right to develop his property," Reese said.

Reese, R-Deer Creek, said a person had bought the land with the intention of developing it and the South Carolina Legislature "passed a law preventing him from doing so."

As a result, he said, the Supreme Court ruled that South Carolina must pay the landowner the amount he had paid for the land, "about $1 million, I think."

"State agencies need to be aware of this case and know if they over-regulate private property owners, they might have to pay for it," Reese said.

But Mark Derichsweiler, Sierra Club legislative director in Oklahoma, called it the "Polluters Protection Act" and "a dangerous proposal that threatens to take away our fundamental right to health and safety."

Derichsweiler called for defeat of the bill, which is scheduled to be on Thursday's Oklahoma House of Representatives agenda.

If enacted into law, the bill would require the attorney general to "adopt guidelines to assist state agencies in the identification of governmental actions that have constitutional taking implications."

In formulating the guidelines, the attorney general would be directed to, among other things, observe that "actions that affect value or use" of private land may constitute a "taking" of private property.

"What this bill does is ask the attorney general to set guidelines for state agencies to follow to ensure that the state of Oklahoma doesn't end up paying for private property owners' property due to a rule or regulation," Reese said. "If they do that, we would end up having to pay for it. …