U.S. Representatives Rick Crawford (AR-01), French Hill (AR-02), Steve Womack (AR-03) and Bruce Westerman (AR-04) and U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced 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. Upon the introduction of the Approvals Act, Representative Crawford made the following statement:
"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."
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: Arkansas Farm Bureau; Arkansas Rice Federation; Arkansas Soybean Association; Poinsett County Conservation District; Riceland Foods, Inc; USA Rice; Agriculture Council of Arkansas; AgHeritage Farm Credit Services; Farm Credit Midsouth; Farmers Supply Association; Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts; Farm Credit of Western Arkansas and First Commercial Bank/Cross County Bank.