Weekly Columns

Arkansans across the state are concerned with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) recent partnership with Clean Line Energy, a private company, to build a large power line through Arkansas and the impact it will have on their land. One Franklin County resident recently told me that his family farm is targeted to be split in half. 

I’m also concerned about this blatant government overreach. The decision by DOE erodes states’ rights. Arkansas officials reviewed and rejected this project. This marks the first time Washington bureaucrats overruled a state to build this type of project. 

Infrastructure is important. Our country built a reliable electric grid without putting Washington in charge of where power lines will be built. Throughout the history of electric transmission siting, transmission projects have been reviewed and approved at the state level. 

While some say Washington needs control so that renewables – like wind energy – can be put on the grid, we’ve had success without the interference of bureaucrats. I support an all-of-the-above energy plan, including wind, but this new wind capacity has been and can be installed without Washington overruling states. 

Fortunately, the Obama Administration’s plan for this power line still faces hurdles. This is not a done deal. DOE must be able to legally defend its decision, and there are big gaps between what the law requires and the decision it reached.  

DOE is resorting to a small provision that has never been used, from a law passed more than a decade ago. This law states that it does not “affect any requirement of any Federal or State law relating to the siting of energy facilities.” In other words, even though the Obama Administration approved the project, many legal experts think that Clean Line and DOE must return to the Arkansas Public Service Commission for final approval on the project’s location. Other parts of the DOE’s decision appear to be arbitrary and unsupported by facts. 

I have asked legal experts and Congressional investigators to carefully review DOE’s decision. We are studying several related documents released by DOE, including the 22-page "Record of Decision" on the environmental review, a 73-page “Summary of Findings,” and a 210-page “Participation Agreement” between DOE and Clean Line. We will also require DOE to answer a series of questions related to its decision and provide all related documents and evidence. 

Last year, in an effort to clarify the law and restore rights to Arkansans, I introduced the Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Land (APPROVAL Act). This bill would make it crystal clear that these kinds of projects must receive state approval. Congressman Steve Womack (AR-03) introduced the same bill in the House. The legislation is supported by the entire Arkansas congressional delegation.  

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