Landowners who have pipelines on or near their property have unique information needs. Living with a pipeline on a day-to-day basis is less difficult if one’s rights and responsibilities are clearly understood. Landowners are also uniquely situated to provide the eyes and ears to protect their property and themselves from some kinds of damage that can occur to pipelines.
When a pipeline is first constructed the pipeline owner obtains a contract with the property owner allowing them to use the land for their pipeline. These contracts are referred to as easements, or right-of-ways. Normally these easements are negotiated with the landowners, but if negotiations fail pipeline companies in some instances can use eminent domain to force the landowner to allow the pipeline on the land. There are no standard right-of-way agreements, so the width and terms of the right-of-way can vary from property to property. It is very important that landowners review their right-of-way contracts to clearly understand what both the pipeline company and the landowner are and are not allowed to do within the right-of-way. For a well written sample of an actual right-of-way agreement click here (pdf, 96k). For a sample of a conflict over tree-removal near an easement, we’ve posted a letter from a lawyer to pipeline operator – click here.
Right-of-Way Dos and Don’ts
Usually construction of buildings and other permanent structures (swimming pools, anchored play equipment, patios, fences, etc.) are not allowed on transmission pipeline right-of-ways because of possible damage to the pipeline and interfering with the pipeline company’s ability to inspect and maintain the pipeline. Most pipeline companies inspect their lines from the air on a regular basis, so the right-of-way agreements may give them the right to clear vegetation from the right-of-way that would block their view from the air. To learn more click here.
What to do in an Emergency
The chances of a pipeline leak or explosion on your property is relatively small, but the consequences can be huge. Knowing what to do, and what not to do, could save your life. Click here to be ready.
Pipeline Proposed for Your Land?
When new pipelines are proposed there are a number of different processes that occur for the pipeline owners to obtain a route. These processes revolve mainly around whether there is a need for the pipeline, and how to minimize any environmental effects. In all of these processes landowners have the right to be heard with concerns and make suggestions for better routes. Pipeline companies will also start to contact landowners and negotiate right-of-ways during this time. For a landowner to fully protect their rights they need to pay attention to these processes and take part when they see the need. To find out more about what agencies are involved and how you can be a part of the process click here.
Placing a pipeline through productive farmland presents unique challenges. In addition to the information in our Landowner’s Guide, we’ve found some examples of language that agricultural landowners may wish to consider when faced with negotiating a pipeline easement on their property. In some cases, a state agency negotiates an Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement with an operator for a broad region for a specific construction project. While these documents are for specific states or projects, the terms within them may be useful to any agricultural pipeline construction project. Enbridge and the Illinois Department of Ag signed an agreement with additional pipeline construction specifications within a 5-county area; that agreement can be viewed here. Indiana did something similar; the agricultural mitigation agreement you can view here, and state voluntary pipeline construction standards can be viewed here.
Oil and Gas Development questions?
The Oil and Gas Accountability Project published a guide for landowners in 2005 that is still useful. You can download “Oil and Gas at Your Door? A landowners guide to oil and gas development” here.
Call Before You Dig!!
Because of the danger of hitting a pipeline or other utility please dial 811 to have all utilities accurately located and marked. This is a free service, which is quick and easy to use. Make sure that you or any contractors working on your property have used this service. To learn more click here.
Helpful organizations for landowners in North America
Seeking legal advice in matters of eminent domain in the U.S. or Canada?
- The bar association of your state keeps a list of lawyers by specialty. Call and get a list of lawyers speicalizing in eminent domain law.
- The Owners’ Counsel of America is a voluntary network of experienced eminent domain trial lawyers from every state of the nation, representing property owners facing condemnation or other infringement on their constitutional rights to own property, and dedicated to advancing the cause of property rights. To find out more or to find a lawyer in your state please visit:
- In Canada, there is the Canadian Alliance of Pipeline Landowners’ Association (CAPLA). The objective of CAPLA is to assist Canadian pipeline landowners to address more effectively the impacts of energy pipeline construction and operation which affect landowner interests, including soil preservation, environmental liability, land use restrictions, safety, repair and maintenance issues and compensation. To find out more go to:http://www.pipeline-landowners.com/