January 9, 2009


The Minnesota Court of Appeals found that the Saint Paul Port Authority lacked authority to enter private property to conduct environmental testing without a specific finding that the Port Authority may be required to acquire the site located in St. Paul’s Arlington Jackson Development District in an eminent domain proceeding. The Port Authority relied on past environmental studies in the area as the basis for a resolution seeking a court order requiring an inspection and invasive environmental testing on a private landowners property.  The Port Authority obtained the order from Ramsey County District Court and a landowner challenged the Port Authority’s order.


The Minnesota Court of Appeals determined that the order was invalid because the Port Authority did not identify a “public use” or “public purpose.”  Specifically the Court of Appeals found that the Port Authority did not demonstrate that it had reason to believe it would use eminent domain proceedings to acquire the landowner’s property.  The Court of Appeals held that under Minn. Stat. Section 117.025, subd. 8 (2006) the Port Authority was required to: “show that more than 50% of the parcels contain an identified substance and that (a) the estimated costs of investigation, monitoring, testing, and remedial action or removal of the substances exceeds the assessor’s market value of the property or, (b) a court has ordered that clean up or remediation of the property occur and the property owner failed to comply with the order within a reasonable time.”  The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s decision upholding the Port Authority’s order.  A copy of the decision is found at:http://www.mncourts.gov/opinions/coa/current/opa072206-1223.pdf


Joseph Maternowski is an environmental attorney who litigates disputes involving contaminated property.  Mr. Maternowski chairs the Environmental Law Attorney Practice Group at Hessian & McKasy. Hessian & McKasy is a full service law firm serving businesses and individuals from its offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


The views expressed here are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer, Hessian & McKasy P.A.


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