In 2015, Texas’ 82nd Legislature passed Senate Bill 18, which required all entities claiming the power of eminent-domain to register in a database. Since the establishment of the database, over 5,000 local governments and private entities claim to have been granted the power in the last two centuries. The rate at which new entities are granted this power seems to be increasing. The number of entities receiving the power has risen steadily since 1830, from a few dozen per decade, to 902 between 2000 and 2010. Since 2011, 531 entities have already received the power, putting this decade on track to top the last.
The data also suggests that there is a heavy concentration of eminent-domain holders in Harris County which is home to the City of Houston. At this time of writing, 1,227 eminent-domain holding authorities are registered in Harris County, with second place going to Dallas County with 239. This disparity in concentration could be attributable to three things, the use of Municipal Utility Districts (MUDs), the presence of pipelines, and the considerable presence of eminent-domain law firms in Houston. MUDs are small scale elected governments. They have the power to levy taxes, take private land, and account for a third of eminent-domain use statewide. Nearly two-thirds of all MUDs are registered in Harris County. Another significant portion of eminent-domain holders are pipeline companies, many of which are headquartered in, or have a Houston office. Along with the MUDs and pipeline companies, come the law firms that represent them. Harris County has many law firms that focus in assisting entities with eminent-domain power. One prominent firm represents 284 entities alone.
All of this suggests that the likelihood of eminent-domain related land acquisitions has increased dramatically for Texas property owners, which if you believe in protection of private property rights, is not positive news.
To view the eminent-domain database, click here.