Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today introduced their legislation that would strengthen the rights of landowners facing eminent domain claims from private companies exploiting public interest provisions to confiscate property in Oregon and nationwide for natural gas pipeline development.
The bills, which Wyden and Merkley first announced in August, 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. The property owners in southern Oregon along the potential pipeline path for the proposed Jordan Cove project provide a clear example of that alarming trend.
“FERC has empowered private pipeline companies to repeatedly abuse property owners with deeply dubious claims of eminent domain somehow being in the public interest,” Wyden said. “A restoration of balance is desperately needed, and our bills would ensure the protection of landowners’ rights with due process that’s fair and just.”
“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.