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Battle Royal over taking private lands for natural gas pipelines – whether seriously needed or not

Senators say their bills would provide needed protections for landowners facing increased and unfair use of eminent domain for pipeline development

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said today they will introduce legislation that would strengthen the rights of landowners facing eminent domain claims from private companies exploiting public interest provisions to confiscate property for natural gas pipeline development.

Both senators said their bills come in response to the natural gas industry’s increased use of eminent domain for pipeline development and the failure of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to protect landowners’ rights.

Wyden and Merkley said property owners in southern Oregon along the potential pipeline path for the proposed Jordan Cove project provide a clear example of that alarming trend.

“It’s become painfully apparent in southern Oregon and far too many other places that private pipeline companies have repeatedly abused property owners by claiming eminent domain in the public interest, safe in the knowledge that FERC will provide them cover,”Wyden said. “My bill and Senator Merkley’s bill would restore a much-needed balance that defends landowners’ rights with due process that’s both fair and common-sense.” 

“For decades, the deck has been stacked in favor of private pipeline companies who can steamroll people’s private property rights to build export pipelines that won’t benefit Americans,” said Merkley. “If big pipeline corporations want to use land in Southern Oregon or across America, they should negotiate with the landowners for that right.”

Wyden’s Reaffirming Property Rights Through Natural Gas Act Modernization Act would end the legal presumption that gas exports are by definition in the public interest, standardize gas developers’ communications to landowners while also setting time limits on FERC actions, set stricter standards on eminent domain claims, provide a more robust appeals process for landowners, and more.

 

Merkley’s Ending Natural Gas Companies’ Seizure of Land for Export Profits Act would prohibit companies building export pipelines from using eminent domain claims of private lands. In addition, the legislation would affirm that the federal government does not have the authority to allow companies to use eminent domain to seize state land for natural gas pipelines.

 

Both senators will introduce their bills when the Senate returns to business in September. Wyden and Merkley also are co-sponsoring the other’s bills.

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