Basin Elec. Power Co-op. v. Payne, 12954

Decision Date12 November 1980
Docket NumberNo. 12954,12954
Citation298 N.W.2d 385
PartiesBASIN ELECTRIC POWER COOPERATIVE, a Corporation, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Harold PAYNE, Lloyd Payne, and Alma Bowman, Defendants and Appellants, and Hand County, Defendant.
CourtSouth Dakota Supreme Court

John F. Murphy of Donley & Murphy, Elk Point, for plaintiff and appellee.

Wally Eklund of Johnson, Johnson & Eklund, Gregory, for defendants and appellants.

MORGAN, Justice.

This appeal arises from an order of the trial court finding that Basin Electric Power Cooperative (Basin), a corporation, had the "right to take," by condemnation pursuant to SDCL Ch. 21-35, an easement across appellants' land. Appellants urge bad faith and abuse of discretion as to the location of the easement and error in the trial court's failure to remand the matter to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for hearing. We affirm.

The easement in question is one of several which Basin sought to acquire across parts of South Dakota from the North Dakota border to a substation situated at Broadland, South Dakota, continuing on to a switchyard located north of Huron, South Dakota. The transmission line is referred to as the Antelope Valley Transmission Line. After negotiations with appellants failed, Basin filed a condemnation suit in Circuit Court, Third Judicial Circuit, Hand County. Appellants filed and served a demand for hearing pursuant to SDCL 21-35-10.1 to determine Basin's "right to take."

Appellants concede that Basin complied with general legal and statutory requirements to construct the line and the eminent domain power of Basin under South Dakota statutes. Appellants contend, however, that Basin acted in bad faith and abused its discretion in locating the line between angle points 27 and 30, part of which line traverses their property. Further, they urge that because of the location of the line in close proximity to their home and to their cattle shed, and because of the potential health hazard created by the electric field that builds up around a high-voltage electrical transmission line, the trial court should have remanded the matter to the PUC.

Appellants raise two issues on appeal. We will first examine the second issue, which concerns procedure. As previously noted, the matter was before the trial court on a demand for a hearing on Basin's "right to take." SDCL 21-35-10.1. Contrary to appellants' counsel's statement during appellate oral argument, the responsive pleading under SDCL 25-35-10.1 did not attempt to inject any question of pollution. The issue before the trial court on such proceeding is the question of fraud, bad faith, or abuse of discretion by the condemnor, the presence of any one of which could vitiate the taking. 1

A broad discretion is necessarily vested in those to whom the power of eminent domain is delegated, in determining what property is necessary for the public purpose, with respect to the particular route, line, or location of the proposed work or improvement, and the general rule is that the courts will not disturb their action in the absence of fraud, bad faith, or gross abuse of discretion.

26 Am.Jur.2d Eminent Domain § 113 (1966) (footnotes omitted).

At the commencement of the hearing appellants orally moved in the alternative: (1) To remand the proceedings to the PUC pursuant to SDCL Ch. 49-41B, the South Dakota Energy Facility Permit Act (SDEFPA); or (2) to remand the proceedings to the PUC pursuant to SDCL 34A-10-5. The parties stipulated that the Antelope Valley Transmission Line (of which the line in question is a portion) was commenced within the boundaries of South Dakota prior to July 1, 1979. The trial court denied the first alternative motion for the reason that, by the terms of SDCL 49-41B-4, the SDEFPA was not applicable to construction begun before July 1, 1979. Appellants do not dispute this ruling on appeal.

The second alternative is the procedural issue before us. As noted, the motion was presented orally to the trial court and argued without submission of briefs. From the context of the presentation it appears that the trial court and opposing counsel had been previously advised of appellants' intention to present the motion. The trial court ruled from the bench that SDCL 34A-10-5 did not apply to the proceedings before it, and that SDCL Ch. 34A-10 gave appellants a cause of action to commence their own lawsuit. We agree with the trial court's determination that SDCL 34A-10-5 did not apply to the proceedings before the court.

SDCL 34A-10-5 was originally enacted as a part of the South Dakota Environmental Protection Act (EPA) of 1973 (1973 S.D.Sess.Laws ch. 144). SDCL 34A-10-1 of this Act authorizes a cause of action for declaratory and equitable relief for the protection of the air, water, and other natural resources and the public trust therein from pollution, impairment, or destruction. SDCL 34A-10-5 then provides:

If administrative, licensing or other proceedings are required or available to determine the legality of the defendant's conduct, the court shall remit the parties to such proceedings, which proceedings shall be conducted in accordance with and subject to the provisions of chapters 34A-1 and 34A-2.

Chapters 34A-1 and 34A-2, respectively, are related to air and water pollution controls. From the context of appellants' arguments they are not asserting any form of water pollution, so we will disregard any further references to SDCL Ch. 34A-2, Water Pollution Control. The "court" referred to is obviously the court in which the EPA action is pending.

No administrative or licensing procedures were required to determine the legality of Basin's conduct. Overlooking for the moment appellants' counsel's omission of any argument regarding the obvious identification of the "court" which we mentioned above, we will assume that the "right to take" proceeding, then before the trial court under SDCL 21-35-10.1, qualified as an "other proceeding" as referred to in the statute. We then look at the question whether the trial court should have conducted the hearing in accordance with and subject to the provisions of SDCL Ch. 34A-1. In argument, appellants' counsel suggested that to implement this requirement, the trial court should have remanded the case to the PUC in the nature of a reference for that commission to hold a public hearing and for its expertise on the pollution question. This is merely appellants' counsel's procedural theory, and it is without any statutory language in support of it.

This theory has two basic flaws. First, SDCL Ch. 34A-1 has nothing whatsoever to do with the PUC. Rather, it involves the Secretary of Health and the Board of Environmental Controls. Nowhere in that entire section of the code is the PUC designated as an agency to determine air or water pollution.

Secondly, the air pollution described in SDCL Ch. 34A-1, on which appellants rely, arises from: "(D)ust, fumes, mist, smoke, other particulate matter, vapor, gas, odorous substances, radioactive materials as defined in chapter 34-21, or any combination thereof." 2 (Emphasis added...

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  • Cody v. Leapley
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • September 25, 1991
    ...Mullendore v. Nuernberger, 230 Neb. 921, 434 N.W.2d 511, 515-516 (1989) (as to declaratory judgments generally); Basin Elec. Power Coop. v. Payne, 298 N.W.2d 385 (S.D.1980) (interpreting SDCL 21-35-10.1) and Mabe v. State, 86 Idaho 254, 385 P.2d 401, 406 (1963) (as to inverse condemnation).......
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    • United States
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    ...4-215 (rev. 3d ed. 1990) (quoting Boswell v. Prince George's County, 273 Md. 522, 523-24, 330 A.2d 663 (1975) and Basin Elec. Power Co-op. v. Payne, 298 N.W.2d 385 (S.D.1980)), addresses the oft found litigated subject and its " 'Landowners when faced with a proposed acquisition of their la......
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    ...not the exercise of judgment but defiance thereof, not the exercise of reason but rather of passion or bias. Basin Elec. Power Coop. v. Payne , 298 N.W.2d 385, 388 (S.D. 1980) (quoting Wendel v. Swanberg , 384 Mich. 468, 185 N.W.2d 348, 351 (1971) ). Electricity is a commodity in widespread......
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    • June 27, 2001
    ...with broad authority in deciding when the taking of property is necessary for public purposes. See Basin Electric Power Coop. v. Payne, 298 N.W.2d 385, 386 (S.D.1980) (citations omitted). Necessity is not a judicial question: a city's decision to condemn is binding absent fraud, bad faith, ......
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