Jul 23 2009

Legislator on Property Rights

FERC is Rubber Stamp for Pipeline Companies, Says PA Legislator

How’s this for straight talk from a Pennsylvania state legislator:

  • The current system of siting natural gas pipelines is broken.
  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is a rubber stamp for the pipeline companies.
  • Property owners are paying the price.

This is the view of Representative Curt Schroder (R – East Brandywine), who is now doing something about it. He has introduced legislation with the support of seven cosponsors (Democrats and Republicans) “that will provide regional control over the placement of natural gas pipelines in communities across Pennsylvania,” according to a press release issued by Representative Schroder’s office.

Here is the full quote from that statement:

“The current system of siting natural gas pipelines is broken,” said Schroder.  ”The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been acting as a rubber stamp for the pipeline companies and property owners are paying the price.  Their land is being devoured by easements, and natural resources are being threatened.  Homeowners are left to plead their cases to an unresponsive federal bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.  FERC is not cognizant of the needs of our communities and is unresponsive to our residents.”

Schroder’s Pennsylvania House Bill 1817 seeks to establish an “Interstate Compact” among neighboring states which would “have the power to govern the siting of interstate natural gas pipelines within their area, replacing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) which presently has exclusive authority when it comes to siting.”  [Emphasis added.]

According to the text of the House Bill, the proposed “Mid-Atlantic Area Natural Gas Compact Act” would comprise eight states plus the District of Columbia. Eligible parties are: Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

In addition, states next to any of those states could eventually be added.

Co-sponsors of Mid-Atlantic Area Natural Gas Compact Act

The seven co-sponsors in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are: Tom C. Creighton (R – Lancaster County); Gordon Denlinger (R – Lancaster County); Seth M. Grove (R – York County); William C. Kortz II (D – Allegheny County); Barbara McIlvaine Smith (D – Chester County); Duane Milne (R – Chester County); and Thomas P. Murt (R – Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties).

Pennsylvania is the site of much natural gas activity in the form of wells, storage fields and pipelines. Storage fields and pipelines usually mean the threat of eminent domain and the seizure of private property rights isn’t far behind.

For example, property owners in Chester County, PA, are fighting a pipeline project pushed by Williams Transco. In York County, property owners are fighting a pipeline project pushed by Texas Eastern, which is owned by Houston-based Spectra Energy. See the blog post on what is happening in York County at this link: http://www.spectraenergywatch.com/blog/?p=293

Conversation with Representative Curt Schroder

In a telephone conversation with Mr. Schroder, he explained that House Bill 1817 is now in the Consumer Affairs Committee of the Pennsylvania House, chaired by Joseph Preston, Jr. (D – Allegheny County) and Robert W. Godshall (R – Montgomery County)

Chairman Preston, Jr. has the sole authority to determine which bills are brought up for a vote in the committee, according to Schroder. He added that Chairman Preston has agreed to hold a hearing on the bill, though a date has not yet been set.

Should the bill pass the committee, it will go to the entire house for a vote. Then it goes to the Senate for a similar process.

The main opposition to this legislation will come from energy companies that will fight any change in the status quo, according to Schroder. They like the cozy relationship they have with FERC and they will oppose this vigorously.

Opportunity for Property Owners

Here is an opportunity for property owners across the state to make their views known on this important legislation. They should do two things:

1) Call, write or e-mail Chairs Joseph Preston and Robert Godshall and tell them you are interested in this legislation because it will help protect the rights of Pennsylvania property owners and help level the playing field with the energy companies.  (Refer to their contact information below.)

2) Call, write or e-mail YOUR Pennsylvania representative and ask them to support House Bill 1817 – and even consider signing on as a co-sponsor.

In the meantime, Here is the link to the press release on House Bill 1817:


Here is a pdf file of the bill:     PA HB 1817

And here is contact info for Chairs Preston and Godshall:

Hon. Joseph Preston Jr.

332A Irvis Office Building

PO Box 202024

Harrisburg, PA 17120-2024

(717) 783-1017

Fax: (717) 787-7520

Home page: http://www.pahouse.com/preston/

Hon. Robert W. Godshall

150 Main Capitol Building

PO Box 202053

Harrisburg, PA 17120-2053

(717) 783-6428

Fax: (717) 787-7424

E-mail: rgodshal@pahousegop.com

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