By News Staff, CBS 19, Charlottesville, VA
Jun 07, 2017
U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have introduced legislation to strengthen the public’s ability to evaluate the impacts of natural gas pipelines that are being considering by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The bill would make it easier for the public to offer input and clarify the circumstances under which eminent domain could be used. It requires public comment meetings to be held in every locality through which a pipeline would pass and at every stage of the review process.
According to a release, this would minimize situations where individuals are forced to travel long distances in order to comment on projects. The release also says, though Congress does not decide on the merits of pipeline projects, it does provide FERC the authority to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of pipeline proposals.
“Driving two hours through the mountains to a public meeting at which you can speak for two minutes is not public input. Having 90 days to read and comment on 2,000 pages while a dozen other 400-page supplements are trickling out is not public input,” added Kaine.
“FERC’s job is to adjudicate the public interest, especially when eminent domain is involved, and this requires taking public input more seriously.”
“Public participation in an agency’s public proceedings is one of the cornerstones of our democratic process,” said Warner.
This piece of legislation would specifically:
– State that is it the policy of the United States for eminent domain to be limited to times when taking the property is for public, and not private, use.
– Requires a single programmatic environmental impact statement, or EIS, if who gas pipelines are proposed within one year and 100 miles of one another.
– States FERC must do a supplemental EIS and another public comment period if there is more information that comes out after a draft EIS.
– Mandates public comment meetings in every locality through which a pipeline passes and at every stage of the process.
– Specifies eminent domain takings of land that is under a conservation easement be given fair compensation for the value of the land and the lost conservation value of it.
– Ensures plans mitigate unavoidable impacts, that are also subject to public comment, so the public can verify that the mitigation is fair and proportionate.
– Requires cumulative analysis of visual impacts on National Scenic Trails, including the Appalachian Trail, for multiple pipelines that cross the same trail within 100 miles.
– Prohibits downgrading of National Scenic Trail integrity requirements in current law is the project represents a net degradation to the trail.