It has been proposed in the Tennessee General Assembly that local governments be prevented from establishing zoning regulations “that ban the construction of important infrastructures, such as pipelines, across their communities,” according to a bill’s author.
Senator Ken Yager (R- Kingston) and Representative Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville) introduced SB 2077/HB 2246, respectively, in the Senate and House. Because of its potential to erode local control, several opponents of the law have initiated an email campaign to raise awareness of the legislation.
According to Yager, in order to keep Tennessee’s economic engine running smoothly and meet its day-to-day transportation and manufacturing needs, “this infrastructure must be allowed to transport and deliver affordable reliable fuel,” he said on March 15 during a meeting of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.
In the beginning, it was intended to direct research to discover what upgrades to the current utility infrastructure, including gas distribution pipelines, need to encourage development and investment in the state.
March 15 saw an amendment to the bill presented and enacted, which changed the measure. That trend will be addressed in the next section, which will focus on what Yager claims is a recent movement by some groups to oppose the development of fossil fuels in Tennessee.
According to Yager, “Some groups have taken aim at fossil fuels in general, and some of those groups have taken aim at fossil fuels in particular and sometimes that campaign against fossil fuels has manifested itself in some local governments becoming involved in what should otherwise be a state-wide scope.”
One of our political subdivisions tried to use ordinance power to prohibit a pipeline here in Tennessee, and it was successful.
“That’s what this bill is all about.” To put it another way, this bill makes it illegal for any state agency to restrict, prohibit, or otherwise hinder the development and implementation of energy sources that can be used, delivered, or converted by electric utilities, gas utilities, and gas transmission companies and petroleum transmission companies.
According to Yager, “Let me give you an example of what this bill doesn’t accomplish. Aside from forbidding the aforementioned actions by local political subdivisions, having an electric or natural gas system of one’s own does not preclude a political subdivision from making the rules necessary to run that system.
Any nationwide, state-authorized ministerial character relative to land use if it’s relevant to all commercial activity does not prevent a local political subdivision.”
The president of Memphis Community Against the Pipeline, Justin J. Pearson, spoke out against the bill at this committee meeting, requesting that the committee take additional time to review the measure.
“There are some things that we all get together on because we grew up in the south,” Pearson added. The other is our God-given right to self-determination, and we all know how vital property protection is. I believe that the right to local control is one of those things. These ideals are under jeopardy, I believe, because of this legislation.”
As a result of this legislation, it would be impossible for local governments to impose zoning restrictions prohibiting the construction of pipelines near schools or within 100 feet of a residence. Local governments should be able to enact these kinds of laws, which I don’t see as prohibitive but rather as protective of our community.”
A vote on the bill is currently scheduled for the Senate floor. There will be a hearing before the Commerce Committee on March 22 on a House version of the measure that was brought to the subcommittee on Business and Utilities on March 2.