On March 6, 2017, NPR aired an interview with Georgia Forestry Association President and CEO Andres Villegas. Villegas provided insight on the political landscape in Georgia as it relates to eminent domain for petroleum pipelines and highlighted the core principle of the Association in protecting private property rights.
As protests against the use of eminent domain for petroleum pipelines continue in the northwestern U.S., NPR’s Molly Samuel asked Villegas to provide political context reguarding the Palmetto Pipeline, a proposed petroleum pipeline stretching across 210 miles of East Georgia. Last year, the Association championed House Bill 1036, which put a temporary halt on the project while the state reviewed the use of eminent domain (see: “State-Level Priority Issues for the Forestry Community in Georgia”).
“That threat of losing land with no recourse is something that can keep a landowner awake at night,” Villegas said. “Forestry and land ownership that comes with it has been woven into the fabric of Georgia since the time of the colonization of the state. It’s been a central part of the economy. It’s been a central part of the culture.”
Provisions of HB 1036 protected the private property rights of forest landowners in Georgia by:
- establishing a moratorium for petroleum pipelines in Georgia until July 2017;
- suspending the use of eminent domain powers for a private company; and,
- creating a study commission to review the future use of eminent domain and the environmental impacts of pipelines.
In an attempt to address the recommendations from the 2016 Joint Study Committee on Petroleum Pipelines, Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, introduced Senate Bill 191. This bill clearly requires any petroleum pipeline company to secure a permit from the Environmental Protection Division and a certificate of need from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority for use of eminent domain. It also increases the voice of affected landowners in the petitioning process during the Environmental Protection Division’s permitting process.
As this legislation continues to progress through the legislative process on the House side, the Association will ensure the private property rights of forestland owners are protected.
Learn more about the core principles, vision and policy solutions of the Association, including private property rights. The GFA Government Affairs Team is on the ground each day the legislature is in session, learn more in our weekly Capitol Forestry Reports.