Farm Bureau pipeline and solar power policies 2018

Pipelines and rivers run through and by farms, and many farmers have solar panels, so it’s interesting to see what Farm Bureau has for energy policies.

Farm Bureau is for fixing FERC by revising the laws that let the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reimburse Congress from fees and charges on the companies it supposedly regulates. Many of Farm Bureau’s pipeline policies are good and sound like it listened to Randy Dowdy. It gets hardcore about eminent domain. There are even a couple of items that, if law, would have been very useful in the recent and upcoming Sabal Trail eminent domain jury trials.

It has some very good solar energy policies, and it is for renewable energy, including incentives; even an electric car policy.

Not all is good. Farm Bureau is for “clean coal”, fracking, nuclear power, and oil and gas exploration everywhere. It never mentions wind power without mixing it with dirtier energy sources.

Title, Policy Book

This is all from FARM BUREAU® POLICIES FOR 2018: Resolutions on National Issues Adopted by the Voting Delegates of the Member State Farm Bureaus to the 99th Annual Meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation®, Nashville, TN, January 2018.

Some of the policies are weirdly categorized:

128 / Transportation

2. We support more allocation of funds for the maintenance and improvement of our transportation infrastructure, including:

2.1. The lock and dam system and waterways;

2.2. Rural highways;

2.3. Railroad systems;

2.4. Farm-to-market roads; and

2.5. Pipelines.

Maybe pipelines are just a relic in that category.

This one is quite forward-thinking:

402 / Energy

4. We believe that a government requirement/mandate for electric car production and use should be matched by concurrent approval for the construction and/or upgrades for reliable electric generation facilities to deliver the power needed. We support charging electric cars in off-peak hours.

This one reads like it was put in at least five years ago when Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) importation was still popular:

5.5. Encourage exploration, extraction, pipeline and port facility construction to ensure gas and oil supplies meet demand;

While I see no mention of LNG export, nor of LNG at all, this 5.5. could be taken to argue for ports for LNG export, which is not good.

Others are alternating good (which I’ve color coded green) and antique bad (red):

5. We urge Congress and the administration to enact policies that will:

5.1. Encourage the states to develop and implement regulations for the handling of abandoned oil and gas production equipment and pipelines;

5.2. Expedite the development of energy resources anywhere in the U.S., including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Outer Continental Shelf and Bakken oil fields;

5.3. Increase domestic oil refining capacity by modifying and streamlining permitting requirements and other regulations;

5.4. Diversify geographic locations of oil refineries and U.S. energy supplies;

5.5. Encourage exploration, extraction, pipeline and port facility construction to ensure gas and oil supplies meet demand;

5.6. Require pipelines carrying hazardous liquid be installed to a minimum depth of 48 inches below the soil surface where applicable;

5.7. Reduce the number of boutique fuels;

5.8. Increase incentives for the use of clean coal technology in electric power generation;

5.9. Stimulate domestic production of oil and gas by reinstating the depletion allowance, eliminating the tax disincentives for drilling and removing excessive environmental regulations;

5.10. Support further development of nuclear, solar, geothermal, bio-based, hydroelectric, oil shale, tar sands, wind and other sources of energy and recommend that special emphasis be given to converting to expanded use of coal, including gasification, liquefaction and alcohol production; and

5.11. Order a thorough economic impact study be completed to demonstrate the true benefits derived from the domestic production of renewable energy to assist in our nation becoming self-sufficient in energy production

Clean coal? Even Southern Company couldn’t make that work. And while I’ve coded 5.11 green, it’s way past time to study renewable energy. Sun and wind power have produced the most new U.S. electricity the past four years, and the solar industry already employs more people than oil, gas, and coal electricity production combined. But Farm Bureau gets it that renwable energy is the path to energy self-sufficiency.

Farm Bureau wants to have its cake and eat it too, with a goal of 25% of U.S. energy produced from agriculture, without adversely affecting “food, feed and fiber.”

I don’t know whether “alternative energy” is the same as “renewable energy”, but if so I’d call these two good:

6.2. Department of Energy (DOE) developing a grant program for the installation of alternative energy systems on farms;

6.3. Educational programs and incentives to promote sound energy conservation renewable energy programs;

I’m surprised farmers who have been subjected to fracking let this one get approved:

6.4. The oil and gas industries’ use of hydraulic fracturing in the exploration and recovery process. Hydraulic fracturing should continue to be regulated by the states, rather than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and

All of 9.1 is good, and sounds like Farm Bureau listened to Randy Dowdy.

9. Natural Gas

9.1. Extensive changes need to be made to laws and procedures governing the review, approval, location and construction of interstate gas pipelines. In particular, we would recommend changes to law that would:

9.1.1. Require governmental agencies to timely notify all landowners who would be affected by a proposed gas pipeline under their jurisdiction;

9.1.2. Require gas pipeline operators to provide compensation to landowners for not only all current losses but also all future losses which may result from condemnations for gas pipeline use, and require operators to pay such compensation within six months of the date the landowner loses his or her property interest;

9.1.3. Require a minimum 5-year restitution period for the tile and compaction disruption on public easement; and

9.1.4. Require gas pipeline operators to drain any area which has become a wetland as a result of pipeline construction and restore such area to its previous condition and productivity.

The rest of this category is oddly mixed, but it contains that most excellent FERC reform policy:

9.2. We support:

9.2.1. Allowing natural gas companies to renegotiate take-or-pay contracts for transmission lines in order to decrease the price of such gas;

9.2.2. Continuing the Surface Transportation Board’s role in overseeing pipeline rates;

9.2.3. Revising the Federal Power Act (FPA) and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 so the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is supported by general revenue funds rather than pipeline fees;

9.2.4. Incentivizing the use of natural gas in agriculture, transportation, and electrical generation;

9.2.5. Methanol production from natural gas for fuel use; and

9.2.6. Odorization of natural gas or components when being transported so that leaks can be safely detected

I had to look up take-or-pay contracts, for example in Lexology:

Take-or-pay clauses are common in long-term supply contracts in the energy sector, the most typical example being the contracts for the sale of natural gas between a supplier and its customers. Under the take-or-pay clauses, the customer — buyer of a supplier/seller is required to either pay the price corresponding to certain pre-agreed quantities of natural gas and offtake said quantities or pay their corresponding price regardless of whether it purchases them. On its part, the seller commits towards the buyer the availability of the pre-agreed quantity of natural gas.

That’s much like crop insurance, so I can see why Farm Bureau would take to it, but we don’t need more hidden subsidies to pipeline companies.

I don’t know what to make of 10.1; that “sources used” sounds like they’re trying to sneak in something as renewable energy.

10. Renewable Energy

10.1. All tax incentives for domestic renewable energy production should be calculated on a standard Btu/kwh equivalent measurement basis, without regard to the materials methods or sources used to produce the energy.

10.2. We support:

10.2.1. Incentive programs and initiatives that will increase the use of, and facilitate the local ownership of all renewable energy sources;

10.2.2. Incentives for renewable energy systems in rural areas as long as it does not restrict agricultural production;

10.2.3. The ownership of methane as separate from other energy resources; and

10.2.4. Increased funding for the AGSTAR (methane promotion) program.

Yep, farther down in “404 / Renewable Fuels” they include biofuels and biomass as “renewable” energy. They even support pipelines for biofuels:

8.1.3. Streamlining and expediting the process for issuing permits for the construction and operation of refineries for the production of renewable fuels and coal gasification;

8.1.4. Distributing renewable fuels via pipelines or other cost effective means

Where’s the policy statement on wind power? There is none for wind alone. It’s only mixed up with dirtier power as Energy 5.10, or as here:

439 / Taxation

7.1.7. Tax incentives for wind power and renewable fuels that remain in place for at least ten years;

Back in 402 / Energy, I find nothing to argue about in this solar category:

11. Solar Energy

11.1. We support:

11.1.1. Solar energy generation as a component of the nation’s energy portfolio;

11.1.2. Establishment of state standards for commercial solar energy conversion systems that protect private property rights and allow for reasonable development of projects;

11.1.3. Ensuring adequate funds are in place for decommissioning;

11.1.4. Allowing landowners the option of terminating a solar lease agreement if solar panels fail to produce energy for a period longer than 12 consecutive months; and

11.1.5. Efforts to locate solar energy projects on marginal or underused lands.

11.2 We oppose giving public utility status to solar energy or solar energy development companies.

As you might expect, an organization representing farmers has some pretty strong opinions on property rights and eminent domain. I can’t really argue with any of these items:


535 / Eminent Domain

1. The taking of property or easements should be permitted only when there is a clear-cut public project and the completion of the project is guaranteed.

2. Eminent domain shall not be used to condemn or transfer property from one private entity to another private entity for economic development or any other private use.

3. We support:

3.1. Prompt, just and adequate compensation, including legal costs, expert witness fees, associated costs, relocation costs, appraisals including highest and best use, replacement costs and participation fees;

3.2. Adequate time to allow for satisfactory relocation of former owners;

3.3. The following procedures in eminent domain proceedings:

3.3.1. Good faith negotiations by the condemning entity to acquire property before initiating condemnation;

3.3.2. Providing a landowner in eminent domain cases five years from the time of the original settlement in which to negotiate claims for damages that may not have been confirmed at the time of the initial settlement.

3.3.3. Requiring for-profit commercial utilities to compensate landowners at a minimum twice the appraisal of the highest and best use. In addition, such utilities shall pay a yearly fee for each pole, tower or pipeline erected on forest land and farmland, with the fee adjusted for inflation;

3.3.4. Requiring public bodies proposing acquisition of property for public purposes to send a written notice at least 60 days prior to any formal public hearing and to hold such hearing before any land is optioned or purchased;

3.3.5. Giving property owners the right to judicial review of the need and location of the proposed taking; and

3.3.6. Requiring companies to obtain a performance bond to fulfill the obligations of the easement or license agreement;

3.4. Requiring entities having the power of eminent domain for right of way, either by condemnation, threat of condemnation, or easement to maintain natural drainage and being held liable for damage to landowners;

3.5. Freedom from liability for landowner or tenant for any accidental or inadvertent breakage or disruption of service on any lines, cables or pipelines;

3.6. An environmental impact statement being prepared as a prerequisite for any eminent domain proceeding;

3.7. Changes in legislation regarding eminent domain cases that would strengthen the rights of landowners and would allow them greater latitude to present evidence in court proceedings;

3.8. All utility lines, cables and pipelines being properly installed according to appropriate specifications. Such installations should be adequately marked; and

3.9. Maintaining state authority to exempt normal agricultural and farm tillage practices from one-call requirements under Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations.

4. We oppose:

4.1. The use of eminent domain for recreational purposes, open space, private economic development or expansion of the land holdings of wildlife agencies;

4.2. Legislation which grants the right of federal eminent domain to any additional entities;

4.3. The ability of non-elected boards, agencies and commissions, public or private, to utilize the eminent domain process;

4.4. Condemnation of property in fee title if a lesser interest will suffice;

4.5. The use of eminent domain to acquire properties intended for future sale. Any lands taken for public purposes and not promptly used for that purpose (i.e., within a maximum period of five years) must be offered immediately to the prior owners or their heirs at a price no higher than the original purchase price;

4.6. The practice of acquiring new rights of way through farmland when existing public corridors exist, such as railways, highways, power lines, pipelines, etc. Government-owned lands and wetlands should be utilized prior to the consideration of any privately owned land;

4.7. Legislation that grants the right of federal eminent domain to any additional entity except in crossing property controlled by another carrier that already has federal eminent domain authority; and

4.8. Any government entity taking private property by adverse possession without just compensation.

Farm Bureau has a lot more to say about private property. These two items, if law, could have been quite useful in the recent and upcoming Sabal Trail eminent domain jury trials:

537 / Private Property Rights

4.11. The basis for just compensation being fair market value of the property or the economic loss to the owner or any adjoining landowner whose property is devalued;

4.12. Compensation for partial takings of the property being based on the reduction in the value of the total property;

Farm Bureau also has a lot to say about water quality, but that’s another subject.

Farm Bureau’s energy policies include some that are quite good, and they really don’t like pipelines through their property.

Disclosure: I am a Farm Bureau member, although I had nothing to do with writing these policies.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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