Pipeline Easements & Takings
According to the US Energy Information Administration, the United States is world’s largest producer of natural gas.
New technology has aided in the extraction of natural gas from previously unattainable sources, including North Carolina’s gas reserves in the Deep and Dan River Basins. New pipelines are being built and new infrastructure added throughout the US and in North Carolina.
Just like the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and other state agencies, private energy companies like Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas have the ability to file condemnation and take your property whether you agree to it or not.
The good news is that they still have to pay you the highest to best use and fair market value for the pipeline easement or taking. But there is more at stake in pipeline condemnation than price alone.
Three Areas of Concern in Pipeline Easements/Takings
How Do You Know if Your Offer Is Fair?
Will you know if the offer for your property is fair? Probably not. Here’s why.
Let’s imagine that Piedmont Natural Gas is running a new gas line five miles through Pitt County and they are coming through 50 properties. They will send letters to property owners to establish contact. They may or may not do an appraisal upfront – sometimes they do not. They may, instead, find some comparable sales, do their own calculations, and make you an offer based on this information instead of visiting your property to appraise it. If they do a physical appraisal of your property, this appraisal can be from 50 to 100+ pages in length and filled with language you may not understand. Further, they may or may not offer you a copy of the appraisal.
Should you get your own appraisal? We urge most property owners not to get an appraisal without first consulting an experienced eminent domain attorney. Land condemnation appraisals are very different than the typical homeowner appraisal you may be used to. We have had clients who have actually hurt their case by getting an appraisal that showed their land to be worth less than what the condemning authority offered. Further, land condemnation appraisers tend to work on a consistent basis for the state or energy companies – not for landowners. Not only might these agents be hard to find, but they are very expensive – and sometimes they may not even agree to work for individual property owners.
There is much more to take into consideration when it comes to finding out what your land is worth and what the future holds for your rights on your property. Importantly how will the pipeline affect the value of the property you have left?
What Does the Easement Agreement Really Say?
What a lot of people do not take into consideration is the language in the easement agreement. This language is very important because it dictates what your rights are on your own property – and the rights of the pipeline company.
This language can be very vague – and we believe these companies make it vague on purpose for their benefit. You want language in the agreement that benefits you. You want language that limits what these companies can do in that easement area. Sometimes the language might simply say, “Put in one or more gas pipelines.” You want to limit that to one underground pipeline.
Easement agreement language is something that can be negotiated, and we
have often been able to have it revised to benefit our clients*.
Pipeline Location Is Key
Let’s say the gas company is running a natural gas pipeline through the middle of a large tract of vacant land. Someday you might want to develop that land for a subdivision. You might need a road to go across that easement area. You might need other utilities to cross that area. You want to be able to negotiate in that easement agreement something that says you have the right to do all those things in the future if you need to.
We handled a case where the initial easement agreement stated the pipeline would come through the middle of a large piece of land. This was going to hurt any property development for that landowner in the future. We presented this issue to the pipeline company and they agreed to move the location of the pipeline to run along one of the property lines. The revised language made a big difference as to the impact of the value of the remaining property*.
How the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm Can Help With Pipeline Condemnation
Relationships with Many NC Condemnation Agents
Oftentimes, the same contractors that work on NCDOT cases may also handle some of the pipeline cases – the appraisers, right of way agents, engineers, land planners, and so forth. Having more than 30+ years of combined experience, we know many of these people. In fact, two of our lawyers were North Carolina assistant attorneys general before leaving the government to represent individual property owners. (NC attorneys with eminent domain experience who have worked for both the state and property owners are few and far between – just a handful.)
Experience Handling Pipeline Cases
While pipeline cases are not as common in North Carolina compared to NCDOT transportation condemnation, we have handled quite a few cases that involved properties that have been condemned due to pipelines.
Pipeline condemnation is complicated. You want an eminent domain law firm with significant experience trying to negotiate not only a fair price, but just as importantly, the language in the easement agreement and the location of the pipeline.
Get a FREE Case Evaluation From North Carolina Eminent Domain Attorneys
We’ve drawn on our combined 30+ years of experience to help increase the
average offer for our clients by 202%* since we’ve been in business.
For more information about pipeline condemnation and eminent domain litigation, contact the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm to learn how we may be able to help, or call 1-877-393-4990. You can also use this online form to tell us about your pipeline situation.
Your case evaluation is absolutely free.
*Each case is different and must be evaluated separately. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Average based on each case’s increase as of 2/4/21.