U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrats, are bringing two pieces of legislation in September to protect landowners from private companies claiming eminent domain to install natural gas pipelines.
The senators said the proposed Jordan Cove Project in southern Oregon is an obvious example, and are co-sponsoring each other’s bills, which come in response to what they said was private companies exploiting public interest provisions to claim land for their projects.
Wyden said, “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 [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] will provide them cover.”
Wyden also said the two bills 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,” Merkley said. “If big pipeline corporations want to use land in Southern Oregon or across America, they should negotiate with the landowners for that right.”
A statement from the senators said Wyden’s Reaffirming Property Rights Through Natural Gas Act Modernization Act would end the notion that gas exports are automatically assumed to be in the public’s interest. It would also set stricter standards on eminent domain claims and set time limits on the actions of the FERC, among other things.
Merkley’s Ending Natural Gas Companies’ Seizure of Land for Export Profits Act goes further as it would prohibit companies that plan to build export pipelines from using eminent domain claims to acquire private land. It would also stop the federal government from allowing private companies to seize state land for use in building natural gas pipelines.