Should landowners be able to protect their land against public pipeline projects?

Awaiting Vote
Bill Summary

This bill works to give landowners more control over their property when it comes to government pipeline projects. Currently, the government can seize private land through eminent domain in order to construct natural gas pipelines. The Landowner Fairness Act increases the transparency of this process by creating new regulations for using eminent domain and giving landowners appraisal and petition rights to protect their land. Sponsor: Sen. Ron Wyden (Democrat, Oregon) View full bill text ➔

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Opponents say

•     "The government, or other authority, obtains property rights through condemnation proceedings, in which the landowner has the right of due process. However, eminent domain does not authorize the seizure of someone’s property without compensation – in fact, it requires that just compensation be paid to the landowner for his or her property. And, in some cases, private property owners can actually receive more for their property than it may be worth."

Source: Kinder Morgan (Kinder Morgan)

•    "The growth in domestic natural gas production from shale formations over the past decade has created tremendous consumer and environmental benefits. According to an October 2019 analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisors, the shale revolution "has reduced the domestic price of natural gas by 63 percent as of 2018 and led to a 45 percent decrease in the wholesale price of electricity…." The same analysis found that from 2005-2017, "the shale revolution lowered energy related emissions by 527 million metric tons per year, or 9 percent of GHG emissions in 2005. This contributed to a greater decline in GHG and particulate emissions in the United States than in the European Union over that period." Without the ability to develop the required energy infrastructure efficiently -- including the very limited use of eminent domain -- to bring this natural gas to market, these consumer and environmental savings would not be possible."

Source: Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (Interstate Natural Gas Association of America)

Proponents say

    "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. FERC has proven to be a weak guardian of landowners' rights. These bills change that and bring much-needed transparency and standardized due process."

Source: Sen. Ron Wyden (Democrat, Oregon) 

•    "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. 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."

Source: Sen. Jeff Merkley (Democrat, Oregon) 

    "This bill is a much-needed overhaul of FERC's system for approving natural gas pipelines, recognizing that landowners are at the mercy of pipeline companies' unfettered ability to seize their property to build projects that rarely provide any public benefit."

Source: David Bookbinder (Niskanen Center)