2 bills could help Texas landowners near transmission towers
HOUSTON (AP) — Two proposed bills could give Texas landowners more options should electric transmission towers be put up on or near their property.
Republican Sen. Larry Taylor has introduced a bill that would require utilities to notify nearby homeowners and hold public hearings before making transmission upgrades, the Houston Chronicle reported . Republican Rep. Ed Thompson filed a bill that would make it easier for homeowners near utility easements to recover damages if projects lower property values.
Thompson’s proposal came after CenterPoint Energy placed transmission towers without notice along an easement that cuts through Silverlake, an unincorporated community near Pearland.
Many Silverlake residents are fighting the Houston utility over its 14-mile (23-kilometer) transmission upgrade from Pearland to Friendswood, saying the hulking steel towers are hurting property values.
Dean Zebak lives only a few feet away from one of the utility’s towers. He said his $410,000 home has lost at least $100,000 of its value, and that real estate agents have told him buyers aren’t considering homes near the easement.
Texas law only allows landowners to receive compensation if their property is directly crossed by pipelines, roads and transmission towers. It doesn’t apply to those nearby whose property values and quality of life may be affected.
Thompson’s proposed bill would allow homeowners near easements to file claims for damages and go through a process similar to eminent domain land takings, in which property owners would have the right appeal to a special commission if they don’t believe they’re receiving fair compensation.
Texas also doesn’t require notice of construction if a utility’s project is within existing transmission easements and doesn’t require new rights of way.
Taylor’s bill would require that utilities provide advance notice of key project details, including what will be built, construction methods and a timeline.
CenterPoint Energy spokeswoman Alicia Dixon said the utility will work with lawmakers to ensure that any new legislation balances the interests of landowners near transmission lines and the millions of homes and businesses that would face increased costs without them.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com