WASHINGTON – July 16, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Congressman Steve Womack (AR-3) – along with Congressmen Rick Crawford (AR-1), French Hill (AR-2), and Bruce Westerman (AR-4) – yesterday introduced H.R. 3062, a bill to grant a state the right to approve or reject an electric transmission project prior to the federal government’s execution of newfound authority to take private property.
The Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Land (APPROVAL) Act (H.R. 3062) directs the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to obtain approval from a governor and state public service commission, prior to approval of any Section 1222 transmission project and subsequent use of federal eminent domain, as well as the approval of any tribal government for affected lands. The APPROVAL Act creates additional protections for states, as well as individuals, by requiring these projects – if approved – to be placed on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers whenever possible. The Senate companion bill, S. 485, was introduced by Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) in February 2015.
After introduction, the original sponsors released the following statements:
“The responsibility of approving electric transmission lines has historically been reserved for states, but yet again, the federal government has forced its way into a place it does not belong,” said Womack. “It is our Congressional obligation to protect states and their Tenth Amendment right to maintain ‘powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States.’”
“Arkansas officials and residents should decide the best use for our state’s land, not the federal government,” said Crawford. “This legislation places the power to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ firmly in the hands of state and tribal governments, and also directs the federal government to use its own resources as much as possible, instead of infringing on the rights of private property owners.”
“The right to private property is fundamental to a free society. Unfortunately, the federal government continues to show little respect for this important personal liberty,” said Westerman. “I strongly support the APPROVAL Act because it safeguards landowners from the threat of having their property taken through eminent domain. This bill provides flexibility and empowers our states by ensuring they have the final say on eminent domain. I hope to see this legislation move through the House of Representatives in a timely manner.”
The DOE is currently in the process of reviewing public comments on the first application for Section 1222 authority by Clean Line Energy Partners, LLC through the Plains& Eastern project following the end of the second public comment period on Monday, July 13, 2015. This high voltage direct current (HVDC) electric transmission line, if approved, would cross the entire state of Arkansas despite being denied a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Arkansas Public Service Commission.
The final text of the bill can be found here.