Please see attached both the press release explaining the findings of the Federal Court which has ruled FERC violated federal law when it issued approvals for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline (NEUP) project, and the decision itself.
The Department of Environmental Protection invites you to participate in an upcomingwebinar on the department’s recently published draft Policy on Public Participation in the Permit Review Process. This important draft policy establishes a framework for the public’s ability to review and provide comments on permits or authorizations under review by DEP.
In a letter to Lancaster Farming, Christy Ann Strange documents the struggle she has had after the construction of gas pipeline across her farm. Her issues range from 6-inch landscaping nails causing injury to livestock, stripping of soil, damage to standing trees and littering a field with rock. East Nantmeal residents could learn from this to be very careful about any land lease agreements with pipeline agents. In particular you will need to incorporate protections for your property during construction and specific remediation of the area post construction.
Property owners approached by land agents for pipeline companies, and faced with the threat of eminent domain, often feel it best to accept the first offer. But in a workshop an attorney with experience in pipeline negotiations advised landowners not to roll over. He suggested that property owners have many rights and plenty of room to get a better price. Considering that the company cannot go lower than the first offer if it comes to an eminent domain hearing, you can take the opening offer as their lowest, not their best.
In northeastern Pennsylvania for the recent MARC1 pipeline, landowners were offered $8 per linear foot. For a 50ft right-of-way that comes to less than $7,000 per acre, suggesting a considerable gap to the average cost to fully purchase the ground. The property owner will still own the land, as the pipeline company is only purchasing an easement to cross the land. However, constraints detailed in the easement may prevent the owner from full enjoyment of use of the property. One may still enjoy mowing and maintaining the eased area and one definitely will still pay taxes on the ground. However there may be restrictions on placing structures or plantings in the eased areas. More important to potential future use, if the pipeline easement separates a significant area of the property, and no drive may be constructed across the pipeline, the owner, depending on local ordinances, may have lost the ability to subdivide and sell a portion of their property. Landowners need to understand what uses of their property may no longer be available to them, and need to be properly compensated for that loss.
The various conservancy groups in the area point out that Pennsylvania’s regulations for remediating an area after constructing a pipeline do not meet best management practices in areas such as soil erosion and forest habitat protection. Property owners can also negotiate conditions to be met during construction and how the land will be restored post-construction that go beyond the state’s requirements. One can specify the types of vegetation to be replanted and the type of long term maintenance by the company to prevent further degradation of the land. Owners viewing themselves as stewards of the land often include these types of conditions. Some have found that the pipeline companies gladly accept these conditions particularly from conservancies, viewing the implementation of the best practices as a public relations opportunity.
In response to the area’s growing number of natural gas pipeline projects, senator Andy Dinniman introduced three bills to protect residents’ properties and the state’s natural resources from harm. Senate Bill 504 requires the Department of Environmental Protection to notify residents of upcoming projects and post information on the DEP web site.
Senate Bill 506 protects taxpayer-funded agriculture and conservation easements by requiring operators to replace acre-for-acre any easement upon which they build pipelines. Senate Bill 507 requires pipeline operators to get the approval of Pennsylvania’s Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board before condemning any Act 43 agriculture easements.
“Chester County was already pipeline central and the number of new pipeline proposals is only increasing.Unfortunately, our state laws and procedures currently do not give landowners and residents the rights and accessibility to information they need to protect their properties, local waterways and other natural resources against unnecessary harm. I want to change that, and I know area residents and municipalities do too.”
— Senator Andy Dinniman.
You can help by contacting our elected officials and ask them to support Senate Bills 504, 506 and 507.
On February 13, 2013, the Board of Supervisors passed by unanimous vote a resolution opposing the siting of the Commonwealth Pipeline through East Nantmeal Township. On passing the resolution the supervisors sent copies to elected state and federal Representatives and to various state agencies.
Please read the text of East Nantmeal Resolution 2013-1
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Neb. Gov. Can’t Shake Landowners’ Keystone Law Challenge
By Sean McLernon
Law360, New York (January 02, 2013, 1:27 PM ET) — A Nebraska state judge on Monday refused to toss a challenge to a law giving the state’s governor the power to approve a new route for the Keystone XL pipeline, finding that three landowners have standing because public funds are being used to carry out the law’s provisions. Continue reading
Law360 has posted Enviros Lose Bid To Nix Kinder Morgan Pipeline Permits on their site; note the site requires a subscription.
Although these pipeline protestants lost this particular permit appeal before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, it is important to note the judge’s rejection of the pipeline company’s claim that the Board lacked jurisdiction to review DEP’s permitting of pipelines:
Judge Mather briefly addressed Tennessee Gas’ claims that EHB lacked the jurisdiction to hear the appeal as a result of broad federal preemption of state law under the National Gas Act, saying the law did not strip states of their ability to review permitting decisions.
Tennessee Gas claimed that because it was ordered to secure permits from the state by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the board was preempted from reviewing the DEP’s decision.
“The board does not believe that federal preemption allows federal agencies such as FERC to hijack state permitting procedures or to rewrite state laws,” he said. “To separate the department’s permitting decision from the board’s appeals procedures violates the longstanding state statutory requirements, ignores longstanding due process safeguards and allows the department to act in a manner that is beyond review under state law.”
Carolyn Elefant, whose law offices wrote Knowing and Protecting Your Rights When an Interstate Gas Pipeline Comes to Your Community will be speaking at Owen J Roberts High School on Saturday, February 16, 2013, from 10 AM to 12 PM. The doors open at 9:00 AM, and a short film about the Hopewell Big Woods will be shown at 9:30.
You can find more about the Law Offices of Carolyn Elefant at the web site.
At the January 29, 2013, Informational Meeting, Lynda Farrell referenced a pamphlet created by the Pipeline Safety Trust, Bellingham, WA, you can get Landowner’s Guide to Pipelines; safety, responsibilities, your rights. here.
Press coverage of the meeting:
Gas pipeline meeting in East Nantmeal covers rights of neighbors (Daily Local News 01/30/2013)