Monday, July 9, 2007

Pipelines and Landowners

Establishing the route of a pipeline is an exhaustive process littered with regulations and standards to insure safety as well as the assets of property owners. The process of acquiring a pipeline "right of way" on private property is somewhat lengthy itself, but provides property owners with adequate compensation for the use of their lands.
If a pipeline company desires a right of way on a landowner's property, they must negotiate to secure those rights. A negotiation of this sort will cover every part of pipeline insertion, from access to the land to restoring the land to its original state. However, before any negotiations of payment begin, a pipeline representative will first ask permission to inspect the property. The land must be surveyed to finalize proposed routes. A settlement between the pipeline company, such as the Western Pipeline Corporation, and the landowner can then be reached. The land that will be temporarily affected will obviously be a long and narrow strip, wider than the pipeline itself but varying depending on the change in elevation and geology of the land. It is important for landowners to understand the entire scope of the project to better understand their role, so in areas of a new route proposal, the FERC usually conducts informational meetings to help landowners understand the process.
Due to the Federal natural Gas Act, pipeline companies have eminent domain to build pipelines on private property. It is wise for landowners to negotiate a nice profit rather than fight the project because the federal power of eminent domain will surely prevail. However, pipeline companies prefer not to use this right in order to keep friendly relationships with landowners, so property owners should consider how to benefit from this opportunity. Some farmers and ranchers worry that a pipeline will ruin a section of their land that might otherwise be profitable, but the great thing about pipeline constructions is that it is only a temporary disturbance. It is the goal of all pipeline crews to restore the land to its original appearance, and crops will not be affected. Safety markers placed at intersections with roads and railroads and any other necessary location will be the only noticeable change. Crop growing and grazing may resume immediately following the project, and the loss of profits of the time of construction can be included as part of the "right of way" negotiation. However, future planting of trees or construction will be prohibited in certain proximity to the pipeline for obvious reasons. Pipeline companies will need to maintain and service the pipelines to keep them in working order, so they cannot be completely covered by something else, nor would it be safe. It is the responsibility of the pipeline company to keep the area cleared for maintenance access.
The pipeline "right of way" regulations are designed to insure the growth of our nations natural gas transportation as well as protect the rights of individual landowners. The government as well as private pipeline companies seek the full cooperation of landowners and are prepared to compensate accordingly.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp is a successful, private independent producer of oil and natural gas.