In-Depth: Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) introduced this bill in response to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking in New York state. He designed this bill to protect landowners by creating a safeguard against “unfair and unreasonable government actions that violate their property rights and adversely affect their property’s value, including fracking bans:
“The Defense of Property Rights Act would provide an opportunity for citizens to seek compensation when government action significantly impairs the value of their property. This would promote accountability and responsible policymaking by forcing the government to provide compensation to affected property owners as a result of infringing on their constitutionally protected property rights. Today, those individuals are not eligible for relief because the government did not render their property entirely ‘value-less.’ The proposed legislation also addresses the issue of jurisdiction by streamlining the federal court process and providing concurrent federal and state review. This helps return fundamental fairness to the system and provides a means for aggrieved property owners to pursue such action in a court of the citizen’s choosing, not the government’s. Currently, through the use of conflicting and limiting standing requirements and jurisdictional ambiguity, many property owners are left in state courts where the burden is on them to prove not only harm, but a ‘total loss of use’ of their property as a whole. This injustice severely limits their opportunities for a remedy and is by its nature fundamentally un-American.”
Rep. Reed adds that federal overreach is also preventing industries from developing their properties, saying, “I can see it on the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) level. I can see it at various agencies on the federal level that are encroaching on property rights every day.”
The Rochester City Newspaper’s Jeremy Moule points out that governments are will within their rights to govern land use:
“[T]he idea that the state's fracking ban is somehow equal to taking private property for public use feels like a leap. Governments have legally placed restrictions on land use for a long time; it's called zoning. Those restrictions keep porn shops away from schools and protect farmers' livelihood when residential development sprawls out to their borders. And historically, governments have been able to regulate and prohibit activities on private land if they're found to be in conflict with the public good.”
There are three cosponsors of this bill, all of whom are Republicans. Rep. Reed previously introduced this bill in the 114th Congress, where it never made it out of committee.
Of Note: In Rep. Reed’s home state of New York, there are “billions of dollars of natural gas trapped underneath the most economically depressed areas of upstate New York.” By New York state’s estimates, the state’s fracking ban cost at least 25,000 jobs in the state’s Southern Tier alone.
In 2011, the Manhattan Institute estimated that allowing fracking in New York State could drive commercial activity in the state “for decades, leading to long-term increases in personal income and tax revenue.” The Manhattan Institute estimated that fracking would mean:
$11.4 billion in economic output and $1.4 billion in tax revenues;
$4 million in economic benefits from each well but only $14,000 in economic damages from environmental impacts;
15,000 to 18,000 jobs in the Southern Tier and Western New York; and
An additional 75,000 to 90,000 jobs if the area of exploration and drilling were expanded to include the Utica Shale and southeastern New York, including the New York City watershed.
Town of Windsor administrator Caroline Price, articulating many locals’ resentment over the fracking ban, said, “[t]he governor has taken the landowner’s mineral rights and robbed the Southern Tier residents of economic freedom.”
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Nancy Haggarty)