NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Property Rights Is An Energy Issue

May 15, 2001

President Bush's energy plan, set to be released on Thursday, is widely expected to include recommendations to allow the federal government to condemn private property, using eminent domain authority to place new electric transmission lines.

Westerners, who have a history of opposing federal applications of eminent domain, would be most affected by the proposed lines.

  • In recent days, Vice President Dick Cheney has spoken of the need to give the federal government authority to condemn private property to ease the way for thousands of miles of new lines -- something that would require the approval of Congress.
  • This authority is now granted for placing natural gas lines, but not for expanding the electric grid.
  • Western governors have been told by federal authorities that the electric grid needs to be expanded by as much as 55,000 miles -- and that this cannot be accomplished without granting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission new powers to condemn property.
  • States now use condemnation powers to place their own power lines, but some Western governors are leery of conferring similar powers on the federal government.

Utah's Gov. Michael O. Leavitt commented last week that giving eminent domain powers to the federal government is "the kind of solution that gets everyone nervous and brings out the antifederalist in lots of people."

Source: Timothy Egan, "In Energy Plan, Property Rights May Be an Issue," New York Times, May 15, 2001.


Browse more articles on Government Issues