The House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights announced today that it would be investigating companies’ use of eminent domain powers. Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) announced the probe in tandem with a request for information on the practice from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
FERC can grant pipeline companies the authority to seize landowner property for construction, but because landowners cannot challenge the seizures in court until their FERC appeals are completed, the companies can theoretically take private property prior to a landowner’s court date. FERC routinely extends that appeals process for months through the use of “tolling orders,” and in December the full D.C. Circuit Court agreed to hear a case challenging that FERC practice.
Raskin’s committee requested a range of documents on pipeline approvals, including the agency’s use of tolling orders and how often it allows pipeline companies to begin construction activities when landowner appeals and state level permits are still pending. The Commission has also tussled with liberal states like New York in recent years over their denial of water permits for pipeline construction.
The committee asked FERC to respond by March 3. You can read the Subcommittee’s letter to FERC Chairman Neal Chatterjee here.