Landowner Comments for Congressional Hearing

The House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the Natural Gas Act was held on Wednesday February 5, 2020. Included in the hearing was discussion on H.R.5454 – Fairness for Landowners Facing Eminent Domain Act.

Richard Averitt, on behalf of himself and 25 other ACP-impacted Nelson County landowners, submitted a powerful and impassioned letter to be entered into the record for hearing. In his covering letter, Averitt stated, “It is of critical importance that the voice and perspective of landowners affected by the current implementation of the Natural Gas Act be part of the record and a stakeholder to the process of reforming the NGA.”

His letter begins, “I write to you on behalf of Landowners in Nelson County, Virginia who are suffering greatly from gross abuse and misuse of the Natural Gas Act by a FERC that repeatedly slants every decision and ruling in favor of any new energy project regardless of the need, cost or environmental impacts.

“We are outraged citizens who have spent nearly six years fighting for our most basic and fundamental rights to due process and property in a country founded on these sacrosanct principles. Moreover, while our specific experience relates to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), our grievances are representative of injustices perpetrated against thousands of families across the country at this very moment along dozens of new pipelines routes. We are the victims of a broken system, a truly feckless FERC, an energy economy that is wildly incentivized to build infrastructure at any cost, and the outrageous lie that the public need for gas is driven by domestic demand while our nation races to be the largest global exporter.”

He asks that “there be more thoughtful and detailed discussion allowing for adequate citizen comment to identify the right changes moving forward,” and notes that while there are many issues worth discussing, “There are at least five key issues which must be resolved in order to protect citizens’ basic rights to property and due process in the courts and to re-balance the NGA.”

Averitt continues by discussing in detail:

  1. Issues of Notice and Intervention
  2. Defining the metrics for determining NEED
  3. Tolling orders must be eliminated
  4. Conditional Permits must be eliminated
  5. Eminent Domain reform – eliminate Quick Take

He concludes, “In summary, while there are many details beyond these five core reforms, these changes to the NGA and the FERC process represent the bare minimum Congress must do in order to restore a semblance of fairness and balance to the process and ensure the most basic and primary protections to a citizen’s guaranteed right to due process and property are preserved.”

Read the full letter here.

Many thanks to Richard for so eloquently and articulately giving voice to landowners most impacted by the reforms in question!

Information on hearing is here, including the Committee Memorandum, witness list, testimony and a live webcast.

In opening remarks at the hearing, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chairman of the full committee, said that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) “must take a more holistic view of the pipeline infrastructure already serving particular regions in order to determine whether new infrastructure is truly needed.” He continued, “I am concerned FERC is simply approving duplicative pipelines, with 60-year lifespans, under the guise of ‘market need’ even when those pipelines are not really necessary. The Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline projects clearly illustrate the need for regional review. Both pipelines cross roughly the same areas in the mid-Atlantic region and, in some instances, impact the same communities and landowners. Why do we need that duplication? And while work on both pipes has been halted, much of the land damage has already been done because FERC allowed these duplicative projects to begin construction.”