U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) and U.S. Representatives Rick Crawford (AR-01), French Hill (AR-02), Steve Womack (AR-03) and Bruce Westerman (AR-04) sent a letter today to Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) Rick Perry urging him to preserve states’ rights and review the Clean Line project, an energy transmission line that stretches nearly 300 miles across the state of Arkansas.
“Throughout your career you have been a champion of states’ rights. This Administration has promised to give a voice back to its citizens. This is a good way to show that commitment,” members wrote.
The Arkansas Public Service Commission rejected the energy transmission project, but last year DOE announced a partnership with Clean Line Energy Partners to construct the energy transmission line across Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee using Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58). This is the first time DOE used this provision to authorize construction and development of this type of project.
“Not only are Arkansans facing the prospect of losing their property due to a decision by the federal government, but your department risks codifying into law the practice of federal eminent domain seizures. This dangerous precedent is antithetical to your distinguished record as a champion for states’ rights in the face of federal overreach,” members wrote to Secretary Perry.
On Monday, the Arkansas Congressional Delegation continued its fight against this federal overreach by reintroducing the Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Lands (APPROVAL) Act, legislation that would require DOE to 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.
The following is the letter in its entirety:
Dear Secretary Perry,
We are writing in opposition to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) agreement to participate in the Plains and Eastern Clean Line Project (the project). This nearly 300 mile-long electric transmission line across the state of Arkansas was reviewed and rejected by our state’s Public Service Commission (PSC). Despite this rejection by the state, DOE chose to evaluate Clean Line Energy Partners’ (Clean Line) application for eminent domain through a never-used provision in the Energy and Policy Act of 2005. Under Section 1222, DOE can grant Clean Line eminent domain authority in Arkansas, allowing them to proceed with the electric transmission line.
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. 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.
Throughout the history of electric transmission, factors for the approval of these lines have been reviewed and decided at the state level. As the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has noted:
“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. State and local governments are well positioned to weigh the local factors that go into siting decisions, including environmental and scenery concerns, zoning issues, development plans, and safety concerns” .
The rejection of the transmission line by Arkansas’s (PSC) forced DOE and Clean Line to resort to using Section 1222. This is the first time DOE has used Section 1222 to authorize the development, construction, or operation of transmission facilities, and the only partnership the Department has (to date) with an entity to do so.
According to DOE, “The purpose of the 1222 program is to reduce electric transmission congestion and/or increase electric transmission capacity.” However, the proposed route is not located in a “designated congestion area” as defined in the Federal Power Act, Section 216(a), nor is it in a national interest electric transmission corridor, and therefore does not fit the requirements of the statute. The use of Section 1222 to advance the project limits states’, as well as local communities’, ability to consider and/or mitigate any concerns that may arise.
Like many policies that were proposed by the Obama Administration, the DOE/Clean Line agreement is currently tied up in the courts. DOE is involved in a lawsuit, forcing the agency to address the lingering doubts regarding the legal justification for the department’s decision.
If these concerns are ignored and the project is allowed to move forward, not only are Arkansans facing the prospect of losing their property due to a decision by the federal government, but your department risks codifying into law the practice of federal eminent domain seizures. This dangerous precedent is antithetical to your distinguished record as a champion for states’ rights in the face of federal overreach.
In order to provide clarity to the law and restore rights to all states, we reintroduced the Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Land (APPROVAL) Act. The legislation makes it clear that these kinds of projects must receive state approval, thereby restoring the voice of the citizens of Arkansas and all Americans.
To help you make an informed decision, we have attached letters of support for the APPROVAL Act from numerous Arkansas organizations who have been or will be negatively affected by this blatant example of government overreach. We hope you will thoroughly review the documents provided and take their concerns to heart.
Throughout your career you have been a champion of states’ rights. This Administration has promised to give a voice back to its citizens. This is a good way to show that commitment.
We will continue working to halt the project, not only because it violates property rights of Arkansans, but also because it violates the rights of all Americans to have their voices heard at the state and local level. We hope you can appreciate our concerns and work with us to fight against this lingering overreach of the Obama Administration.