Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN) has introduced legislation that wouldrequire pipelines seeking to seize private property for projects topersonally notify affected landowners by certified mail of theirintention at the outset of FERC proceedings, giving them theopportunity to “participate meaningfully” in the process.

The bill was proposed after 50 landowners of Marion County, TN, complained they were taken by surprise when United States GypsumCorp. sought and received from FERC the right to seize interests intheir property to build a small gas pipeline through the county toserve a new plant to be sited in Bridgeport, AL. Thompson and otherlawmakers sought rehearing of the Commission’s decision and a stayof construction, but their requests were rejected.

“…[W]hat I find especially troubling is that these privatelandowners-my constituents-were never given personal notice thattheir land could be taken for this private pipeline project,”Thompson remarked. Current regulations require only that a noticebe published in the Federal Register, a publication that isn’tregularly read by landowners.

“In this case, our constituents just felt that they werecompletely run over,” a spokeswoman for the senator told NGI. “Itseems like it’s only common sense that nobody would object torequiring written notification by mail at least. That seems to bethe lowest common denominator.”

Although it was not addressed in the legislation, Thompsonraised some concern about private companies being allowed toexercise eminent domain altogether. “I wonder whether some greaterpublic benefit needs to be demonstrated than simply the economicvalue of having a new company locate in the region,” as in the caseof U.S. Gypsum. “…[W]e are talking about a situation where aprivate company is essentially being allowed to stand in the shoesof the federal government and seize an interest in the property ofordinary citizens, but without committing that property to thedirect use and benefit of the larger public.”

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