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WASHINGTON -- Members of the all-Republican Arkansas congressional delegation introduced legislation Monday that would effectively block construction of a new power line stretching from Oklahoma to Tennessee, potentially halting the $2 billion project.

If approved, federal officials would need permission from state officials before they could approve the use of eminent domain to build an electric power transmission facility within the state. Approval would also be needed from American Indian tribes if the project affects their property.

In addition, the project would have to be constructed, "to the maximum extent practicable," on federal rights of way or lands.

The Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Land Act, if passed, would give Arkansans a voice in the process, U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Rogers said in a written statement. "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 and U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers are the lead sponsors of the legislation; U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Dardanelle, U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro, U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock and U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs are co-sponsors.

Delegation members introduced the same legislation in 2015, but it died after passing in the House Natural Resources Committee.

Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners wants to deliver power from Oklahoma wind farms to consumers in the southeastern United States.

The Plains and Eastern Clean Line project would span more than 700 miles and would enter Arkansas just north of Van Buren and would exit the state south of Wilson in Mississippi County, if the preferred route is adopted.

In a written statement Monday, the company said the bill "creates more red tape and kills jobs" and undermines efforts by President Donald Trump to strengthen the nation's infrastructure.

"The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is a pro-jobs, pro-consumer, pro-environment public energy infrastructure project that will help to create a secure energy future for the country, and we are ready to get to work," company President Michael Skelly said.

The company said the project would boost Arkansas' employment and provide another power source for Arkansans.

The line cutting across Arkansas would carry 4,000 megawatts, enough power to supply 1 million homes, supporters say. A converter station in Pope County would enable up to 500 megawatts of the power to be delivered to Arkansas customers, the company added.

Under Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the secretary of energy can own, operate, build or collaborate on construction of a transmission facility that is needed "to accommodate an actual or projected increase in demand for electric transmission capacity."

The project must be in the national interest, "reduce congestion of electric transmission in interstate commerce" and not interfere with the "efficient and reliable operation of the transmission grid."

A year ago, then-Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz gave his backing to the Clean Line project, saying it would help modernize the nation's power grid and facilitate the use of renewable energy.

"Building modern transmission that delivers renewable energy to more homes and businesses will create jobs, cut carbon emissions, and enhance the reliability of our grid," Moniz said when his decision was announced.

Some area officials and landowners who live near the power line's path have objected to its construction.

In a press release Monday, members of the Arkansas congressional delegation expressed their support for the legislation they introduced.

"Arkansans have been taking care of their land for generations. And they should have a say in any decision that affects that land," Cotton said.

"Arkansas officials and residents should decide the best use for our state's land, not the federal government," said Crawford.

"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," said Hill, noting that the bill would give Arkansas officials "the final say."

Womack said he is proud to sponsor the legislation, adding, "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."

Calling private-property rights "fundamental to a free society," Westerman said the bill "safeguards landowners from the threat of having their property taken through eminent domain."

The legislation would require explicit authorization from both the governor and the head of the public service commission or its equivalent in each of the states affected.

The lawmakers say their legislation is supported by numerous groups, including the Arkansas Rice Federation, Arkansas Soybean Association, Agriculture Council of Arkansas and the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts.

Clean Line says it has support from businesses as well as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

"The IBEW strongly disapproves of politics getting in the way of American job creation," the union's international president, Lonnie Stephenson, said in a written statement released by Clean Line.

The legislation "will kill thousands of American jobs and, specifically, hundreds of Arkansas jobs," Stephenson said.

Metro on 03/07/2017

Print Headline: State's U.S. lawmakers file eminent domain bill


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Archived Comments

  • mrcharles
    March 7, 2017 at 9:31 a.m.

    See russia's influence is already reaching into Arkansas. Thanks rump.
    Commies have entered into the halls of politics to destroy jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs and well jobs for America. Just as in the keystone pipeline discussions the heck with landowners , how can they stand in the way of industry and progress.

    I hate to think of all the business men who will not be able to feed their families, and have to see their children starve to death like they were in the sudan due to these commie pinko fascist muslim loving arkansas delegation standing in the way of industry and business and the divine will of the upper 1%.

    Some might call our esteemed leaders hypocrites, I just call them a distinction without a difference as it is in their genes to say but but but.

  • Knuckleball1
    March 7, 2017 at 12:24 p.m.

    The Arkansas Congressmen and Senators don't want this clean energy power line going across the state. However, they are all for a pipeline carrying come of the most corrosive crude oil to ever be pumped out of the ground under and through other states water supply when they don't want it. Now the Trumpster has changed his mind and not going to use US made pipe, but Canadian made pipe made by one of Putin's buddies....

    You can't have it both ways.... we know you are two faced and this just adds more fuel to the fire that you don't care about this country only the money you are going to get in your pockets.

  • GoUSA
    March 7, 2017 at 1 p.m.

    I applaud the Arkansas congressional delegation for introducing this bill standing up for private land owners rights and protecting state rights over federal overreach. This "Clean Line" project is not clean nor good for Arkansas (nor other states). It is just another example of how corrupt big government can be when teamed with big $$$ investors. Federal eminent domain for private gain is Un-American. You don't have to dig to deep to determine their jobs jobs jobs propaganda is PR nonsense. Naming this project "clean" does not make it clean. This transmission line project has no customers after years of trying to sell its "cleanness". None. Zero. Zip. Big extension cord to nowhere. Meanwhile thousands of acres of Arkansas beautiful landscape is destroyed to line the pockets of out of state billionaire investors on back of rural Arkansas landowners. Wake up people and say no to federal eminent domain for private gain. Not public use but private gain. No to private gain obtain by exercising governmental force against its own people. This will be a horrible legal precedent established right here in Arkansas if not stopped. Speak up or risk losing another liberty. It may be the fatal blow to private property ownership rights in the USA. Hard to believe but true. Happening right now and right here in our state.
    So I send a big THANK YOU to the Arkansas Congressional Delegation.

  • TimberTopper
    March 7, 2017 at 1:56 p.m.

    Lets see, if we make it impossible to get clean energy to where it can be used then we can fall back to using the polluting kind. Yep, Really makes good sense! Great job guys! Get ready for the opposition to grease your palms, huh

  • GoUSA
    March 8, 2017 at 12:10 p.m.

    TT...the opposition does not have to grease palms. That's a Clean Line tactic with all their lobbyist. The opposition has being right on their side. If you spend time researching this project and the issues involved, you will see this transmission line is wrong on many levels. I can tell from the comment you fell for the "clean line" spin. Dead giveaway of folks not familiar with the true facts about this project.

  • pragmaticron
    March 11, 2017 at 12:43 p.m.

    Smart environmentalists will oppose the routing of this project. The environmental damage goes far beyond the easement and the property on which the power line will reside. The extent of damage to property owners is intentionally and grossly understated by Clean Line. The visual impact from 200-ft tall towers will be a scourge on the Arkansas landscape on an unprecedented scale. Routinely overlooked is the hissing electrical noise that can propagate 2,000-ft or more (reluctantly confirmed in the revised Environmental Impact Study). Clean Line continues to lie about the profound impact these will have on property values. Only the blind and unethically greedy deny the real negative impact.

    Putting the damage in perspective, this one "environmentally friendly" transmission line is not unlike dropping a 4 megaton nuclear bomb. At the point of direct impact, 18,000 acres will be will be unearthed. The noise pollution (corona noise) will radiate over 284 sq. miles destroying home and land value over an area 50% larger than Tulsa, OK. The visual pollution will extend over 750 sq. miles negatively impacting home value over an area 25% larger than Oklahoma City.

    Adding insult to injury, DOE meets behind closed doors with Clean Line denying Arkansans due process. And, Clean Line continues to lie to property owners and environmentalists alike in their ads & editorial letters by implying that this project has no negative impact that the public is not rightfully compensated for.

    For once, let's be honest and forthright.

  • Jfish
    March 11, 2017 at 2:10 p.m.

    pragmaticron, this is about property owner's rights, if it was about the environment, you can bet that Boozman, Womack, Cotton, Westerman and Hill would not be nearly as concerned. See C&H Hog Farms and the State of Oklahoma had to sue us in order to prevent the pollution of water flowing into their state from Arkansas chickens__t.