Congressman Malinowski Introduces Bill to Protect Landowners Facing Eminent Domain for Pipeline Construction
(Washington, DC) Today, Congressman Tom Malinowski introduced the Fairness for Landowners Facing Eminent Domain Act, which reforms the Natural Gas Act (NGA) to protect property owners facing eminent domain for the construction of pipelines. Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-20), Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), and Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-02) joined as original co-sponsors.
The bill amends the NGA to prevent pipeline companies from using eminent domain to take land from private citizens and to start making changes to it – such as cutting down trees – until they have obtained all of the federal and state permits necessary for the construction and operation of a pipeline project. It also prohibits the use of eminent domain for pipelines attached to facilities that export internationally (NGA Section 3 facilities), and it suspends eminent domain authority for companies that request material amendments to their existing certificates (e.g., to change the route of a pipeline).
Congressman Malinowski has been an outspoken advocate for property owners whose land is being taken by eminent domain to build the proposed PennEast pipeline. He has been in regular meetings with affected property owners, urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to respect the rights of these property owners, and will continue to advocate for policies at the federal level that enhance protections for those facing eminent domain under unfair circumstances.
“Property owners in Hunterdon County and throughout the country deserve to feel secure in their homes and on their land,” said Congressman Malinowski. “It makes no sense to allow pipeline companies to take and despoil a person’s land if there is a good chance that a court or government body will eventually stop the pipeline from being built.”
“New Jersey has a long and impressive record of preserving green spaces — something that’s as difficult as it is important in the most densely populated state in the country. Our hard work to protect our land and our investments in New Jersey’s natural resources must be maintained. Homeowners who value their own green spaces and the role they play in protecting against environmental threats deserve the tools to fight back. We’ve recently fought and won costly battles against unwanted and unnecessary pipelines. The Fairness for Landowners Facing Eminent Domain Act will empower our local homeowners to prevent land grabs through the use of eminent domain. I’m grateful for Congressman Malinowski’s leadership and look forward to continuing to partner with him to protect our green spaces,” said Congresswoman Watson Coleman.
“In the Granite State, safeguarding our natural resources and the rights of property owners is central to protecting our state’s identity,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “The issue of natural gas transmission routes and the use of eminent domain hit close to home several years ago, when a proposed pipeline would have cut a needlessly destructive path across my district and endangered substantial plots of private or protected land. The Fairness for Landowners Facing Eminent Domain Act forces pipeline companies to be more thoughtful as they chart their pipeline routes. American families should never be placed below the energy demands of foreign countries, and also should not be forced to give up their land for ill-conceived pipeline projects.”
“Under current law, pipeline companies are shortchanging landowners. Property owners have a right to feel secure in their homes, and there should be common sense measures in place to prevent corporate interests from unfairly stripping people of their homes and land,” said Congressman Huffman. “This legislation establishes clear and fair practices to rebalance the system to work for citizens, not just corporations.”
“This bill would protect home and property owners from having their lands seized for pipeline projects that haven’t received final approval and might never be built,” said Tom Gilbert of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "We have seen firsthand the abuse of eminent domain by the PennEast pipeline, and applaud Rep. Malinowski, Rep. Watson Coleman, and the other cosponsors for taking steps to protect our lands from unjust seizure by gas pipeline developers."