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Sessions: America Can Lead in Energy Production and Protection of Private Property Rights

WASHINGTON—Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Ranking Member Pete Sessions (R-Texas) opened today’s hearing on pipelines and landowner rights by emphasizing America can lead in domestic energy production and the protection of private property rights. He underscored natural gas is critical to the health and sustainability of the American economy but that balance must be achieved to protect landowners’ rights and ensure they are justly and properly compensated when eminent domain is used.

Subcommittee Ranking Member Sessions’ remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

There’s no question that the building of pipelines to transport energy to America is a proper use of eminent domain—the process by which the government can put property to a public use after paying just and proper compensation to the property owner. That’s how things like highways, public schools, and public hospitals are built.

But, there’s a responsibility, as the chairman noted, there’s a responsibility not just under the law, but also under regulatory agencies to not only do their job, but to ensure that the public good is represented.

Let me also say that these companies that do the hard work, that come and do the things that are necessary, must be interested in not turning their back on their full responsibility.

That is where public policy and proper utilization of the free enterprise system combined with the law come to meet with eminent domain.

While Americans might take issue with how any particular eminent domain project is conducted, Americans overwhelmingly support this balanced approach for not only America’s energy industry but other industries also. In particular, it is the energy industry because Americans need energy at their homes. We need energy, enough energy—whether that’s above ground or below ground—to ensure we can turn this economy—the world’s greatest economy—into not only jobs but production on behalf of the American free enterprise system.

Americans understand natural gas is critical to the health and sustainability of the American economy. For many years, we in Texas have gotten used to not only understanding that this clean resource, which is abundant to this great nation, can also be utilized in balance with other ways that we provide electricity and energy to our country. But, the sustainability of the American economy is built around the effective use of pipelines that safely ensure that the transfer of energy is available to all consumers and industry. Indeed, one news report about the very pipeline at issue at this hearing today states that the property owners affected “don’t cite concerns about climate change or even object to having a pipeline on their land. Most already have many, and they’re fine with that.” What they have a problem with is: We have to follow up to make sure that this balance is achieved.

In my own state of Texas, property owners have had their fair share—or should I say, unfair share—of negative experiences with pipeline projects, just as what we’re talking about here. It’s not a one-on-one basis. But it really gets down to that: We need a better way to look at pipelines and oversight. This was done years ago as we had pipeline failures across my state and very close to the congressional district I was honored to represent. That is why we have a continued opportunity, just as we do today, to not just reexamine but to look at and push industry and to push regulators.

The President of the Texas Farm Bureau, Russell Boening, has said “We know that we must have the means to move people, goods, and energy across Texas, but private property owners should be treated fairly when forced to give up their property.”

Mr. Chairman, what we are doing today did come as a result of a bipartisan approach that you have taken and the conversation that we had between your staff and my staff.

We looked at, and you fairly asked us, what would we like to look at, what would be in our range of issues. You accepted that. We are doing that today.

I thank you. Our relationship is important. The relationship of our members to each other is important. And, for us to work together, it does mean that we don’t’ have to agree on the issues but we have to address them. So, I thank you not only for listening to me but for listening to us. There are always examples of things we all wish we could do better, perhaps there are failures.

But your agreement and the agreement of your staff to work on this proposal is one that we appreciate, and we appreciate. And, I want to thank you.

I want to thank our witnesses for being here today.

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Author: Amy Hasenberg

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