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Arkansas Congressional Delegation Introduces Bill Giving States Power to Reject Federal Electric Transmission Projects

March 6, 2017

Contact: Caroline Rabbitt (202) 224-2353

WASHINGTON -U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and John Boozman (R-AR) and U.S. Representatives Rick Crawford (AR-01), French Hill (AR-02), Steve Womack (AR-03) and Bruce Westerman (AR-04) today will introduce legislation to restore the right of states to approve or disapprove of electric transmission projects before the federal government exercises its power to take private property.

The Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Lands (APPROVAL) Act would require that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) receive the approval of both the governor and the public service commission of an affected state before exercising the federal power of eminent domain to acquire property for Section 1222 transmission projects. For projects on tribal lands, DOE would have to receive the approval of the impacted tribal government.

"Arkansans have been taking care of their land for generations," Cotton said. "And they should have a say in any decision that affects that land. This bill will empower Arkansans to say no when the federal government tries to ignore their wishes."

"The APPROVAL Act allows the voices of Arkansans to be included in decisions that impact their land. If a project is not good for Arkansas, our governor or public service commission should have the power to say ‘no' instead of being cut out of the process and dictated to by Washington bureaucrats," Boozman said.

"Arkansas officials and residents should decide the best use for our state's land, not the federal government. This legislation places the power to say 'yes' or ‘no' 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," Crawford said.

"I continue to hear concerns from our state and local officials about the impact of the Clean Line project and its effect on private landowners in Arkansas. The APPROVAL Act will ensure that our state leadership has the final say in granting permission for these types of energy transmission projects across our state," Hill said.

"In 1792, President James Madison wrote that ‘government is instituted to protect property of every sort,' and nearly 225 years later, the concept of private property is still integral to who we are as a nation," said Womack. "I am proud to once again be the House original sponsor of the APPROVAL Act, which will grant American landowners and their states a voice before the federal government takes their land using eminent domain. Too many Arkansans risk losing their land and livelihood to Section 1222 projects, and I will always do what I can to preserve individual property rights and power in the people."

"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 Congress in a timely manner."

In addition to allowing states the ability to reject the use of federal eminent domain for a project, the APPROVAL Act would ensure to the extent possible, that approved projects are placed on federal land rather than on private land. Specifically, for approved projects, DOE would be required (to the maximum extent possible) to site projects on existing rights-of-way and federal land managed by: (1) the Bureau of Land Management, (2) the U.S. Forest Service, (3) the Bureau of Reclamation, and (4) the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The decision to permit electric transmission projects has long been the responsibility of the individual states. As noted in a 2011 report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, "The location and permitting of facilities used to transmit electricity to residential and commercial customers have been the province of the states (with limited exceptions) for virtually the entire history of the electricity industry." The report says that state and local governments are "well positioned" to understand the concerns of the area and the factors for making a decision on these projects.

Since the Arkansas Congressional Delegation first introduced this legislation in 2014, DOE announced a partnership with Clean Line Energy in an energy transmission project across Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee using Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58).

This legislation has the support of the following Arkansas organizations: Jackson County Farm Bureau; Arkansas Rice Federation; Arkansas Soybean Association; Poinsett County Conservation District; Riceland Foods, Inc; USA Rice; Agriculture Council of Arkansas; Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts; Arkansas Rice Farmers Association; Farm Credit Midsouth and Poinsett County Farm Bureau.