Transparency in government is something that every legislator and every citizen should work to enhance. Therefore, it is always encouraging to find government officials push for greater public awareness.
Delegate Dickie Bell of Staunton has introduced a bill in the 2015 session of the General Assembly that furthers this goal. According to Virginia’s Legislative Information System, Bell’s HB 1696 “Makes a public service corporation subject to the public records provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act with respect to any project or activity for which it may exercise the power of eminent domain and has filed or prefiled for a certificate or other permitting document.”
Although we can certainly argue the merits and proper uses of eminent domain, I believe that land owners should have clear knowledge of who desires their land, for what purpose it may be used, how much land is in question, and what are the costs and benefits to the land owner, the public, the government, and the group attempting to acquire the rights to the property. All of this information should be common knowledge before eminent domain can be employed.
As many already know, Dominion Power is pushing for a natural gas pipeline through Highland, Augusta, Nelson, and a multitude of other counties as they make their way through Virginia to North Carolina. Many citizens who live in or near the pathway have expressed concern or outright opposition to this project. One cannot travel to Highland County via Route 250 without seeing a multitude of yard signs speaking against a pipeline.
Hopefully, Delegate Bell’s bill will shed greater understanding and communication regarding the Dominion pipeline and future plans. And, if I’m understanding this piece of legislation correctly, it is my desire that the members of the General Assembly will support HB 1696.