Things you need to know about dealing with pipeline companies

From: Mike Bernhard <mikebernhard@frontiernet.net>
Date: Mon, Jul 8, 2013 at 9:57 AM
Subject: Emkey gas pipeline

Friends and neighbors:
Surveying has begun for the Emkey pipeline that will interconnect the east-to-west pipelines below and above Chenango County. This phase will involve a transmission line from Preston through Smithville, Oxford, Coventry and Oxford, as well as Colesville in Broome County (map attached). As in the case of the “Constitution” pipeline project – which runs through Afton as well as Broome and Delaware Counties- local pipeline shills are lying about the effect of these transmission lines, which will increase the likelihood of hydrofracking in these and adjacent towns, with all of fracking’s infrastructure of unregulated gathering lines and compression stations.
Together with the Compulsory Integration of unleased properties into Drilling Units, Eminent Domain provides a tool for gascorps to leverage the acquiescence of a few large (often non-resident) landowners into a public policy that favors irresponsible corporations (and to a lesser extent, those large landowners) at the expense of residents with modest properties.
If you are in the path of the pipeline, the attached letter from Bob Lidsky (copied below) deserves your careful reading. Even if you are not directly in the path of the pipeline, you should understand the pressures that gascorp brings to bear on our neighbors in the line-of-fire, and be ready to support whatever resistance they can offer. To learn from the resistance to the “Constitution” pipeline, see http://www.stopthepipeline.org/.
Please forward widely.  And stay in touch.

I own land, directly in the path of the proposed Constitution Pipeline. The

property is quite hilly and has beautiful views. There is one small area near

the top, which has a gradual enough slope to build a home.

Last December, Constitution asked for permission to survey. Their map

shows the pipeline running directly through the only area suitable for

building, siting a septic field, driveway and home. I realized that the pipeline

if built would render my property, un-buildable, un-mortgage-able, uninsurable, and nearly worthless.

I Joined Stop The Pipeline and refused permission to survey. Over the next

few months I learned a lot about Williams, Constitution, FERC, and the

politics of pipelines and eminent domain.

Then I received Constitution�s offer for their completely one-sided right of

way agreement. They say their limited-time initial offer is for 3 times the

value of the right of way. Yet it represents only 15% of the value of the

land. Their terms are ominous- a virtual minefield of legal traps. And

attached is a thinly veiled, threatening letter explaining that if I do not agree

they will take the right of way, against my wishes, by using Eminent

Domain.

SIGN-OR ELSE! What should I do?

There is no way I can or would agree. There is no way I would sign any

contract to do business with them.

I know that legally, the situation is out of my control and that they can take

their easement under federal law by utilizing eminent domain.

Their tactics attempted to make me feel helpless, and, for a while I did,

dealing with a depressing, seemingly hopeless, situation. But joining STP

helped me realize that by resisting collectively, we have a good chance of

stopping them. That was when I started to investigate and learn about what

actually happens in Eminent Domain.

Rather then simply stonewall; to refuse to sign, I decided to fight, to take

them on face-to face. So I met with the Right of Way agent for Constitution.

First we discussed the survey. Having previously denied permission I asked

how the survey was performed because in the legend it used the words

“field survey”. The agent knew that I had denied permission. I asked him if

they were illegally on my land and he said that the survey was done

virtually, using GPS coordinates from the tax map. I did not believe him, as

there were numerous sightings of surveyors by my neighbors.

I told him that he was ruining my investment. He did not argue that the

amount offered would be an insignificant fraction of the amount the property

would depreciate. He said emphatically, that the price was firm and they

would not negotiate. They do not pay more, or buy the entire parcel under

any circumstances.

I told him the route ran right through the only place on the property where I

could site a home. He replied that the route is non-negotiable.

We discussed their right in the proposed contract to cross my property to

gain access to the right of way. He denied that. I told him that he was being

misleading, showing him the access clause in the proposed agreement. He

said it wasn’t true. I told him the contract rules, not what he says. He

implied it could be negotiated.

We discussed the planned access road just to the north of my property line.

He said that permission for this was not yet granted. This is conjecture, but

I got the impression he was having a hard time getting people to sign, not

just next door, but also with others.

I brought up the prepayment for future damages clause. He said they would

pay all costs and I said that�s not true� just read the contract. He replied

that Constitution would hold me harmless. I countered with Constitution�s

right to sell or assign to anyone. Who will be the responsible party?

This led to the question of insolvency or failure or bankruptcy of

Constitution. I told him I was not going to accept this “Pandora�s Box” of

legal pitfalls at any price. His answer was to say he would check this out

with some higher-ups and get back to me. He has not contacted me.

Unfortunately I forgot to mention the inability of a landowner to get a

mortgage when an interstate high-pressure pipeline is nearby a potential

structure.

I brought up liability and insurance issues. I told him I would never sign

because by signing I was buying into an unending liability for damages by

becoming his partner in a commercial- industrial operation. I would always

have an increased insurance cost and would have to carry huge & expensive

limits for liability, if the property was insurable at all. He gave no response.

I left the most important for last. We discussed eminent domain. He said

they were reluctant to use it but then openly threatened that they would

absolutely use it if I didn’t come around and sign.

I think I shocked him when I told him my best course of action was to have

him TAKE the right of way from me by eminent domain! The court would still

award me something, but more important, I would have no liability. He said

nothing. He had no answer. He said he would get back to me. He never has.

I think this discussion of asking him to take me by Eminent Domain set him

aback. He seemed unprepared. I think he was used to forcing landowners to

sign using the Eminent Domain club. Constitution uses Eminent Domain as a

bargaining tool, but it can be put to good use against them.

Here is my laypersons view:

IF I SIGN:

1) I give away my right to sue.

2) I enter into a business deal with unknown future liabilities.

3) I have continuing extra insurance expense.

BY TELLING THEM to TAKE MY LAND:

1) Only gas can be transported, no tar sands or other liquids.

2) No future pipelines or other utilities will be allowed.

3) We gain political power when significant numbers of landowners refuse to

sign.

5) FERC�s mandate is to listen to landowners.

6) They lose their bargaining tool when eminent domain is seen as better for

me.

7) I still get paid something,

8) I have no liability,

9) I preserve my right to sue them later, in a class action for a taking of my

land,

Only the landowners can stop Constitution. WE have the power. Hundreds of

landowners have to welcome eminent domain as the best option, and as the

only way to prevail. I know there are many other landowners who believe

this. Please start expressing it in public now, in order to grow the

movement.

To stop them, we need to refuse signing, and to threaten a class action

lawsuit for the full value of our property, presenting them with a huge

political and financial problem.

Make this public! Make them walk away! ONLY by refusing to sign can we

win. It is your active resistance that will prevail. This can be done. We must

hit them where it hurts.

TELL THEM TO TAKE THAT EASEMENT BY EMINENT DOMAIN.

Robert Lidsky,

Andes, NY

July 8, 2013