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Pipelines

Pipeline Projects

Pipeline projects typically involve the taking of “easements” across private land for the installation, maintenance, and operation of pipelines and “appurtenant” facilities, most often sought by large oil companies, pipeline companies, or public utility companies. Appurtenant facilities can include above-ground facilities ranging from small pipeline markers to sizable buildings housing large banks of engines and pumps, valves, meters, other equipment, and personnel.

Some pipeline projects in Ohio have the power of eminent domain, and some do not. “Eminent Domain” is a legal term that refers to the government’s power to take private property and convert it to a public use. The act of exercising eminent domain power is commonly referred to as “Appropriation” or “Condemnation.” The government may also delegate its power of eminent domain to private companies for for-profit projects deemed to serve the public’s interest, such as certain types of pipelines, power lines, and railroads. Not all pipelines, however, have the power of eminent domain. Pipelines that are not deemed to serve the public’s interest do not have the power of eminent domain. These can include pipelines designed to serve a single customer, oil and gas well gathering lines, and pipelines designed to transport certain types of materials that are not deemed to serve the public’s interest. Most pipeline projects in Ohio today, however, have the power of eminent domain, and the entity taking land by eminent domain, whether the government or a private pipeline company, is referred to as the “Condemning Authority.”

In many cases, when the landowner first learns that a condemning authority is planning to take their land, the first question is: ‘Can I stop this?’ The answer is, while there are procedures available to landowners to attempt to stop eminent domain projects, the reality is, under Ohio law the use of eminent domain for pipeline projects deemed to serve the public’s interest can rarely be stopped. But under Ohio law, the landowner also has many important rights.

The power of eminent domain is not absolute, and is limited by the the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 19 of the Ohio Constitution. The Fifth Amendment requires that when a condemning authority exercises its eminent domain power, it must pay just compensation to the landowner. The Ohio Constitution further extends the rights of the landowner to provide that just compensation shall be assessed by a jury. So in the case of a pipeline project that is deemed to serve the public’s interest, the more relevant questions concern the amount of just compensation to be paid, and the contractual terms the condemning authority must follow in exercising its eminent domain power.

When deciding whether to hire an attorney, keep in mind that the landowner does not start on a level playing field. Large oil companies, pipeline companies, and public utilities are involved in eminent domain takings every day, and have legions of attorneys on their side who know eminent domain law and can fight you in court, if necessary, to take your land. In order to make it a fair fight, you need attorneys on your side who know the law and have experience squaring off against the government and large companies in eminent domain cases. At GBSK, we have leveled the playing field and achieved favorable results for hundreds of landowners faced with pipeline projects on their land.

Please continue reading below for more information on how we can help, or click above for a free consultation and we’ll be happy to speak with you. You can also click the link below to view some of the pipeline results we’ve achieved for our clients:

How We Help

When faced with a pipeline project, it is common for the landowner to focus most of their attention on monetary compensation. Although important, monetary compensation is only one aspect of a pipeline project. We provide value to our clients through three distinct, interrelated services:

1. Obtaining Monetary Compensation – The primary remedy for a landowner facing a pipeline project on their property is the payment of compensation. If the pipeline project has the power of eminent domain, the landowner is entitled to just compensation for the land taken and the damages to the residue (the remaining property), which may be obtained through negotiations or a jury trial. If the pipeline project does not have the power of eminent domain, the compensation to be paid is entirely the product of negotiations. We work with our clients and our extensive network of experts to determine if there are any flaws in the pipeline company’s compensation offer. If we conclude that the pipeline company’s offer is too low, we negotiate diligently on our client’s behalf to obtain higher compensation. If the pipeline company has the power of eminent domain and no settlement is reached, we obtain experts to perform appraisals and evaluate any other land use or engineering concerns on behalf of our client. The appraisal then forms the basis of our legal position at trial. In addition, we are skilled trial attorneys who are not afraid to go to trial if necessary to achieve the right result for our client.

2. Negotiating Contractual Terms – Regardless of whether the pipeline company has the power of eminent domain, it is often possible to negotiate modifications to project plans and to obtain other contractual terms to mitigate the landowner’s damages and protect the future uses and value of the land. At the commencement of our representation, we discuss with our clients what modifications to the project plans or other terms would be most beneficial, as well as educate our clients on important additional terms that should be included, and then we work diligently to obtain those changes through negotiations with the pipeline company.

3. Enforcing Contractual Terms – After the contractual terms are negotiated, we stand with our clients every step of the way to ensure that the pipeline company complies with its duties and obligations in carrying out the plans and any other contractual terms, both during construction and in the future. If the pipeline company fails to meet its obligations, we assist our clients in taking the necessary enforcement action. See Our Results for examples of such enforcement action.

To view some of the pipeline projects in which we are involved, please click the link below: