Representative Malinowski Reintroduces Bill to Protect Landowners Facing Eminent Domain for Pipeline Construction

April 28, 2021
Press Release

(Washington, DC) Today, Congressman Tom Malinowski reintroduced 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 cosponsors.

Among other provisions, 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.

“Property owners in Hunterdon County and throughout the country deserve to feel secure in their homes and on their land,” said Congressman Malinowski. “Over the past several years, I have met with landowners who live up and down the proposed PennEast pipeline route and have seen firsthand the farms it would ruin, the water it would pollute, and way of life it would destroy. I will continue to pursue legislative and regulatory remedies to protect my constituents whose land is threated by a pipeline project that our state doesn’t want or need.”

“I am proud to join fellow New Jerseyan Rep. Tom Malinowski in introducing this bill to ensure that landowners are always represented and respected. Pipeline companies should not be allowed to hold more power than landowners, particularly when the natural gas pipelines have significant impacts on the environment for both the individual landowners and their neighbors,” said Congresswoman Watson Coleman.

“Safeguarding our natural resources and the rights of our property owners is central to protecting New Hampshire’s identity,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “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 forced to give up their land for ill-conceived pipeline projects, and I look forward to advancing this legislation to protect landowners in the Granite State and across the country.”

“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 and frontline communities, 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."   

Congressman Malinowski has been an outspoken advocate for property owners whose land is threatened by the proposed PennEast pipeline. He has been in regular meetings with affected property owners and continues to advocate for policies at the federal level that enhance protections for those facing eminent domain under unfair circumstances.

  • In August 2019, he called on the New Department of Environmental Protection to reject PennEast’s re-application for the Freshwater Wetlands and Water Quality Permits needed to move the project forward. 
  • In October 2019, he sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) urging it to immediately issue a stop work order for all of PennEast’s land-clearing and construction-related activities. 
  • In April 2020, after PennEast filed an amendment requesting to construct the pipeline in two phases, he urged FERC to reject PennEast’s request because it amounted to a wholly new project and, therefore, required FERC to do a full application review under Section 7 of the NGA, a needs analysis of the project’s economic viability, a review of the precedent agreements, and an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.
  • In May 2020, he introduced legislation to ensure that landowners are able to exercise their legal right to challenge energy projects that disrupt their property prior to construction.

Bill text can be found here.

 

 

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