Editorials

Editorials

For states' rights

Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Mar 13 2017

If the 2016 presidential election taught us anything, it is that the American people are tired of the status quo in Washington and are ready for change.

Over the past eight years we witnessed the Obama administration use government overreach as a means to an end, usurping states' rights as a way to advance its priorities. While there is a new resident in the White House, the partnership between the Department of Energy and a private company to build a large power line across the state is a lingering reminder of the overreach that targets the rights of Arkansas landowners.

The Department of Energy's decision to partner with Clean Line Energy is a perfect example of everything wrong with the federal government. Electric transmission projects are historically approved at the state level, but after a rejected application from the Arkansas Public Service Commission to build the nearly 300-mile-long transmission line across 12 counties in our state, Clean Line ran to the Obama administration for approval and received it.

This marked the first time Washington bureaucrats have overruled a state to build this type of project. Even high-profile, controversial energy infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline were agreed upon by the states involved before Washington weighed in.

State and local governments have a better understanding of the impact of this type of project to citizens, the environment and future development. The Department of Energy should rely on their input. Instead, the department resorted to a small provision from a 2005 law that had never been used before to approve the project.

Arkansans are rightfully concerned about what this means for their property. To preserve states' rights and empower our citizens, the Arkansas congressional delegation reintroduced the Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Lands (APPROVAL) Act this week.

This legislation would prevent the Department of Energy from exercising the federal power of eminent domain for a transmission project without having the consent of the governor and the public service commission of the state affected by the project.

The Trump administration made a promise to the American people to give them a voice in Washington. Newly confirmed Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry has always been a strong supporter of states' rights. This is a great opportunity for President Trump and Secretary Perry to continue that commitment to Americans.

If this problem is ignored and the project is allowed to exercise the use of federal eminent domain, the Trump administration would be setting a very dangerous precedent.

I will continue working to halt the project, not just because it violates the property rights of Arkansans, but also because it violates the rights of all Americans to have their voices heard at the state and local level.

We hope the Trump administration and Secretary Perry can appreciate our concerns and work with us to fight against this remaining overreach of the Obama administration.

This was printed in the March 11, 2017 edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.