If you own a tract of land outside city limits in the country, at some point in time you will get a letter or a phone call from a pipeline company offering to acquire an easement to place an oil or gas pipeline across your favorite pasture or through your best clump of trees. This call or delivery can throw your world into a tailspin of uncertainty and insecurity because the answer is seldom a simple “No.” When that happens, it would be wise to seek the advice of attorneys in College Station Texas to provide information about what to expect with the easement process.

Our society depends on oil and gas that is regularly transported through pipelines, which is both efficient and relatively inexpensive; unfortunately, these pipelines have to be placed on private property. If you own property in Texas, there is likely at least one pipeline running through that land – or will be in the future. The real rub regarding pipeline easements is that there is very little that can be done to stop these conduits from being run through your property; however, knowing the rules and what questions to ask when contacted by a pipeline company will be to your benefit.

Right-of-Way Negotiation

The pipeline company will send a right-of-way agent to discuss obtaining a pipeline easement (right-of-way) through your property. This is important to remember: that agent works for the pipeline company and always puts that company’s interests first.

In each negotiation, issues that are addressed are: compensation, amount of acreage taken (width of easement), location of the easement, surface restoration, and duration of the installation. While the foregoing issues are crucial to any easement agreement, there are many more issues that may need to be addressed and should always be discussed with an experienced attorney in College Station TX. Our firm offers several attorneys actively involved in representing landowners in these types of cases.

  • Compensation – When negotiating compensation, it is important to determine the value of the land being taken and what impact it will have on your present or future use of the property. If the property is only being used for cattle grazing, it is often difficult to justify a premium price. It’s important to keep in mind that the property may not always be used for cattle grazing or agriculture purposes.
  • Amount of Acreage – When negotiating, it is important to know that the pipeline company will not just be acquiring a certain amount of linear rods or feet – they will be acquiring an area. Therefore, it is crucial to negotiate the width of the easement, which in most easements only requires a 30-foot width. Remember the pipeline company almost always wants more versus less, which means they want a wider easement area rather than narrower.
  • Location – This should always be primarily your choice, not the pipeline company – within reason. Negotiation is always possible here.
  • Surface Restoration – Surface issues are generally the most important concern for a landowner and it is imperative that surface issues be addressed and included in the easement. These issues include restoration of the surface and access, to name just a couple. This is important because the pipeline may remain in the ground for many decades and the easement agreement will not be renegotiated or changed after it is executed. Get the best agreement possible at the inception – this is critical!
  • Duration – Without clear language to the contrary, an easement can last in perpetuity. Be sure to include language in the agreement that requires a termination and release of the easement after a set time. Also consider including language that provides for an abandonment of the pipeline itself after a certain number of months after termination.

Skilled negotiation is very important, since the pipeline company has the ultimate “hammer” of condemnation (called eminent domain) to acquire the easement through court action. Knowing how to navigate the negotiation waters to use the condemnation process to your advantage is vital.

Pipeline easement negotiation is a complex process and can have a lasting impact on your land. If you are approached by a company wanting an easement, you should contact attorneys in College Station who are experienced in this area. None of the foregoing is intended as legal advice or to replace representation by a competent attorney as provided in the Disclaimer section of this website.
 

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