The Power Line Health Controversy: Legal Problems and Proposals for Reform
Part I of this Note examines the primary means of compensating individuals whose property is affected by EMFs from nearby power lines: eminent-domain and inverse-condemnation proceedings. Although power lines adversely affect property values in several ways, 6 fear of the potential health problems caused by power lines has had the greatest impact.’ v Part I evaluates the three approaches that courts have developed to determine whether plaintiffs can recover for the effect of public fears of EMFs on property values. This Part concludes that although testimony about the biological effects of EMFs should be inadmissible, property owners should be able to present particularized evidence as to the actual effect of such fear on the value of the property at issue.
Part II suggests three possible tort theories-battery, trespass, and nuisance-that plaintiffs might use to get injunctive relief and monetary damages for the harms caused by EMFs. Although these theories remain relatively untested in court, they have the potential to provide the monetary relief or cessation of EMF exposure that plaintiffs have sought. Part II suggests that plaintiffs seeking monetary damages should bring battery or trespass actions, while plaintiffs seeking injunctive relief may have more success under a nuisance theory.
Part III of the Note examines how utility companies can defuse opposition to power-line construction by changing their approach to the EMF issue. Power companies need to adopt both alternative technologies and a more politically sensitive attitude in addressing EMF concerns. Part III concludes that such steps will reduce the losses utility companies face from private lawsuits, while simultaneously accelerating new power-line construction.