Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today reintroduced 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 introduced last fall, 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.
“Making sure that landowners’ rights are maintained and that due process is the default process is just commonsense. Yet, in Oregon and elsewhere, long-running natural gas projects have kept property owners on edge, not knowing whether their property might be condemned or whether selling out to big industry was the only option,” Wyden said. “FERC has proven to be a weak guardian of landowners’ rights. These bills change that and bring much-needed transparency and standardized due process.”
“Allowing private pipeline companies to steamroll people’s private property rights to build export pipelines that won’t benefit Americans is wrong, plain and simple,” Merkley said. “If a massive corporation wants to use land—in Southern Oregon, the Columbia River Gorge, or anywhere in America—they should have to negotiate with landowners for that right. Let’s put an end to the days where powerful and privileged fossil fuel executives act like Americans’ private property is up for grabs as they try to line their own pockets at the expense of our communities.”
Wyden’s Landowner Fairness 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. In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the bill is also cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J.
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.
Supportive quotes from landowners are available here.
A one-page summary of the Landowners Fairness Act is available here.