Holt to reintroduce legislation

MANSFIELD -- State Rep. Doug Holt, R-Social Circle, will again introduce legislation during the upcoming session of the Georgia General Assembly to attempt to get regulations over Georgia Transmission Corporation and similar entities.

"I am currently redrafting the bill that I was working on last year. I expect it will be fairly similar, but will have some refinements when I'm done," Holt said in an email response to questions. "The reason I made no progress during the last session was that I was never granted even a second hearing on the bill, much less a vote. The chairman of the committee was unwilling to let me proceed, for reasons he never really articulated.

"Thus, I don't expect an easy process this coming session either. I'm working with the folks in Mansfield to try to raise awareness of the issue around the state. If we can get enough folks from other areas contacting their legislators about this problem, I'm hopeful that sufficient pressure will be generated to open some doors."

Holt has created a flier to explain the situation to residents, and the flier has been posted on the MAPLE website, at www.fighton2012.com.

Holt's proposed bill from last year would have put GTC and similar entities under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission.

According to Holt, Georgia is one of only a handful of states that has no agency charged with overseeing the use of eminent domain for placement of power lines. There was no law governing the process of using eminent domain in those situations prior to 2004.

GTC argues that there is already a bill in place that oversees this process.

But according to Holt, the bill that was passed that year originally sought to create a statewide Transmission Line Siting Committee with power to approve or disapprove proposed power line projects. By the time it passed, it had been watered down to little more than a requirement that property owners in the vicinity of a proposed line be notified of the project, and that the utility hold one or two public meetings about it.

Holt's proposed legislation from last year would have required subsidiary corporations exercising the power of eminent domain to submit a map showing the proposed right of way or easement to the governing authority of the political subdivision in which the property is located. Subsidiary corporations are defined as those owned or controlled by one or more electric membership corporations that derive the right to obtain rights of way and easements.

The local government would have three months to approve or reject the plan. Disputes between local governments and subsidiary companies would require binding arbitration by the Public Service Commission.

Don Evans, the attorney representing the city of Mansfield in its case against GTC, said, "Doug Holt is a visionary leader who understands the problems the city of Mansfield and other cities like Mansfield and the citizens of Georgia in general are facing when you have an unelected, unaccountable group, a private corporation that can make routing decisions that dramatically affect peoples' lives and property values without any oversight or any controls."