Womack leads fight to restore states’ rights in energy transmission line approvals

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) championed landowners’ rights by introducing legislation this week that would grant states the ability to choose whether to approve electric transmission projects before the federal government can seize private property.

Womack was joined by U.S. Rep. French Hill (R-AR) and other members of the Arkansas delegation in introducing the Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Lands (APPROVAL) Act.

The bill would require the Department of Energy (DoE) to gain approval from a state governor and public service commission before using eminent domain to seize property for energy transmission line projects.

The bill was introduced in response to DoE action last year on the Clean Line project, an energy transmission line that would extend approximately 300 miles across Arkansas. After the Arkansas Public Service Commission rejected the proposal, DoE announced a partnership with Clean Line Energy Partners to build the transmission line across Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee under a rarely used provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Section 1222.

“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,” Womack said. “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 APPROVAL Act would also require the DoE to locate approved energy transmission projects on federal lands and in existing rights of ways to the greatest extent possible.

“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,” Hill said. “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.”

Members of the Arkansas delegation also called on Energy Secretary Rick Perry to review the Clean Line project and to restore states rights in the matter.

“Our objection to Clean Line’s application should not be viewed as a fight against renewable energy; we each understand the importance of having a reliable electricity grid and are strong advocates of a diverse energy portfolio, including wind, solar, hydropower, renewable biomass and nuclear energy,” the letter states.

“Likewise, we do not take issue with the building of national infrastructure; robust infrastructure investments, including the enhancement of the electrical grid, are often productive undertakings. Instead, our objections relate to the vast overreach the Obama administration employed, allowing this project to skip the necessary protections which exist to protect state sovereignty and private property rights,” the letter said.