Do Not Sign That Pipeline Easement/ Right-Of-Way Just Yet!
With the continued development in the oil and gas industry, construction of pipelines are becoming more prevalent and more invasive on private land. The companies are constructing pipelines to move their product cheaper and quicker to processing facilities, but they are doing this to the detriment of hard-working landowners. Pipeline companies use aggressive and unscrupulous tactics to get landowners to sign voluntary easements.
One of these unscrupulous tactics is to place a check in front of a landowner, typically for a somewhat sizeable sum in the six figures, then they apply pressure by stating “this check will only be good for the next 48 hours, take it or leave it.” They follow up with the threat that if you don’t sign the easement, then you will be forced to allow use of your land by eminent domain and thus the company would get the easement anyway. The key thing to remember is eminent domain (i.e. condemnation) proceedings, are not a bad outcome and will not permit the pipeline to take ownership of your land. Rather, the proceeding forces an easement (i.e. a right to use your land) to be granted for the pipeline, on condition that the landowner receive “just compensation.”
If you are unsure of what eminent domain is, think of it as the government asserting its power to make someone do something for the larger public’s benefit. Often times, eminent domain is used to allow for construction of highways for the public's benefit of getting places quicker and safer. In the case of a pipeline, the usual argument made for a “public benefit” is something along the lines of limiting the amount of semis on the highways or getting products to the market quicker, thus lessening costs of doing business for business owners who can then hire more employees. The list goes on and on. However, when landowners are faced with a condemnation proceeding many landowners often have a misconception of what this actually entails. The term “just compensation” has long been controversial but with the Ball & McCann representing your interests, do not be surprised to receive compensation three, four, maybe five times greater than the amount you were offered by the pipeline.
The reason why obtaining a higher value is possible with legal representation, is because we craft convincing arguments detailing why the pipeline will decrease your land value, explain how the pipeline will cause damages during the construction phase, as well as throughout its future operations. There are countless arguments to be made during these condemnation proceedings that will get you the highest value possible for use of your land. In order to get to a condemnation proceeding a landowner must first refuse to sign the voluntary easement, however this may not always be the right decision depending on what company you are dealing with .
Hiring an attorney to review the proposed pipeline easement can not only save you years of headaches and disputes, but also increases the chance of you receiving substantially higher compensation. Each and every term of that pipeline easement must be scrutinized and clarified before you even consider signing anything. Agreeing to an ambiguous open-ended easement can only be detrimental to the landowner, as there is clearly a justification for why the pipeline offered you ambiguous terms. Every facet of the easement must be defined in extreme detail, from the amount of notice a landowner must receive prior to a pipeline representative accessing your land, to the exact location, depth, and width of the pipeline, it must all be reviewed, refined and unambiguously outlined in the easement.
If you are or a neighbor are confronted by a pipeline right-of-way solicitor, do not hesitate to contact an attorney to review and negotiate the easement terms on your behalf. I can promise you that any landowner who decides to forgo hiring an attorney to review the easement, will indeed be faced with more stress and disputes with the pipeline operator then any landowner could have ever imagined. The pipeline company is in the business of making money, and compensating the landowner large amounts is not something they want to do. However, if the landowner has the right legal representative protecting their interests, paying large sums of compensation is exactly what the company will be forced to do.
Contact the Law Firm of Ball & McCann for a Free Consultation - (872) 205-6556.