Letter: Gas bills violate both 5th and 14th amendments

Editor:

This concerns SB 244 (forced pooling) and SB 245 (entrance onto private property for surveying purposes), as well as similar bills that have been introduced.

Both bills relate to one basic issue — the granting to privately owned entities aspects of governmental powers. There will be other comments on these bills which point out that they violate private property rights (Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution). I concur, but my main point is that they also violate Equal Protection rights (14th Amendment).

In giving private entities aspects of state authority without accountability to the public (not just to the property owners directly involved), we are in effect reverting to what the colonists rebelled against England for in the 18th Century. This is called superior status law.

In the 18th Century this was granted by birth to someone whose ancestors had done some sort of favor for a king and had been granted powers derived from the king in return. In the pre-1865 South — and to some extent North — this was a function of being a member of the white race. The 14th Amendment was brought in to deal with this latter situation. But what happened after that should warn us that just having constitutional rights on books does not guarantee that governments will follow them.

What we are facing now is unfinished business from both the American Revolution and the Civil War. We don’t have a monarchy. And we don’t have chattel slavery. But we do have unaccountable private money power which insists on its right to impose its priorities on the rest of society. This requires coercive enforcement and is incompatible with the claim of equality under the law which the Declaration of Independence advocated and Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address reminded us of. It requires imposing the priorities of concentrated money of whatever ethnic origins; the core of this in the US belongs to WASPs — on all governmental bodies, including the West Virginia Legislature.

In SB244 and SB245 we are seeing a small-scale but threatening example of this. The majority of utilities are very closely linked with powerful financial institutions and to some extent — behind legal facades such as “bank passive party status” — controlled by them. This is why utility stock is usually regarded as a very conservative investment, despite a very few hiccoughs on the road like the Columbia Gas bankruptcy 25 years ago.

All the above affects many other issues regarding West Virginia politics, but that’s for another day. For right now, let’s strike a small blow at our current Lord Norths and Simon Legrees and kill these two and all similar bills.

Thorn C. Roberts

Elizabeth

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