Pipelines play a valuable role in moving hazardous materials and liquid or gaseous products to the intended destination. In order to install pipelines where they are needed, an easement is often necessary on properties along the route.
An easement provides one party the legal right to use property that does not belong to them for a specific purpose. The party does not give them any rights of possession, but rights of usage. The party who has the easement can place restrictions on that portion of the property in how it may be used or maintained. An easement usually is a legal agreement that is recorded with the deed and transfers with the property whenever it is sold. The new owners must follow the restrictions of the easement.
A pipeline easement impacts the properties on the path of the pipeline, allowing the company access to provide maintenance, repairs, inspection or for other related activities. The easement may also be referred to as right of way, which includes not only the people but their equipment needed to maintain the pipeline.
The pipeline company has no other rights to the property. They cannot prevent or cause a sale or have any other say in the development of the property as long as it does not interfere with the pipeline or easement. However, they can remove trees if they overhang in the easement area. The same is true of fences or gates that overlap into the easement and prevent access. These items may be removed without compensation to the property owner. Pipeline easements may vary in size, but they are often 50 feet wide with 25 feet on each side of the pipeline. They are usually marked with posts, signs or other markers that may be seen from the air and roadways.
Concerns with Pipeline Easements
It is understandable that many property owners have several concerns when it comes to pipeline easements. With current easements for pipelines already in place, very little change should be anticipated. If the pipeline company must make repairs or replace the pipeline, they will need to make alterations to the part of the land under the easement.
For new installations, the pipeline can obtain an easement so they can build through the property without approval of the property owner by right of eminent domain. The property owner may be entitled to compensation, but it generally very low because pipelines seldom impact surface use. However, the amount of compensation should increase if it is determined that the easement causes an impact to the property and its use.
If the property owner is unable to develop the property or is restricted on its use because of the easement, they may be entitled to additional compensation under the eminent domain law. To determine if this is the case and how much compensation should be awarded, a property owner will need to hire an experienced eminent domain attorney. They will need to review the original easement and any alterations that have been made to determine if a claim may be made.