Negotiating a Pipeline Easement for Your Family Ranch in Texas
If you own a family ranch in Texas, a pipeline company may approach you one day to negotiate an easement agreement for the purposes of building a pipeline on your property.
This process is often complex and the outcome may have long-term consequences for your family’s land and livelihood. Before agreeing to any terms, ensure you understand the negotiation process and take all legal steps necessary to protect your rights and interests.
A qualified Texas attorney experienced in negotiating pipeline easements can offer the peace of mind that comes from knowing an expert is on your side.
Tips for negotiating a pipeline easement for a family ranch in Texas include the following:
Protect Your Rights
If your land lies in the path of a proposed pipeline you will want to negotiate an agreement that protects your interests. Pipelines pose potential safety and environmental risks that can affect your enjoyment of your land and its future value. Pipeline companies are not looking out for your best interest and may not offer you a fair value for their easement. In addition to obtaining just compensation for your property, the details included in your agreement should protect your access to and control over your land as well as its future value.
Before entering into negotiations, contact a Texas attorney who is experienced in federal and state laws governing pipeline easements. The attorneys at Gregor Wynne Arney will explain the laws and regulations and guide you through the negotiations to a successful outcome.
What the law says about pipeline easements in Texas
In Texas, both state and federal laws govern pipeline easements on family ranches and other private properties. The laws applying to pipeline easements may vary depending on the specific proposed location of the pipeline and the type of product that is being transported.
The Texas Transportation Code
The Texas Transportation Code is one of the key laws governing pipeline easements in the Lone Star State. This law sets out the rules for pipeline companies seeking to construct pipelines across private properties, such as Texas family ranches.
Under this law, a pipeline company must obtain a permit from the Texas Railroad Commission before constructing a pipeline across private property. The company must also provide advance notice to the landowner and make a good faith offer for compensation.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulations
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulations also impact pipeline easements on family ranches in Texas. These regulations apply specifically to interstate pipelines. They govern the siting, construction, operation, and maintenance of these pipelines. They also provide for the safety and environmental protection of the public and the communities where these pipelines are located.
Overall, Texas law recognizes the importance of pipelines for the transportation of products such as oil and gas. However, it also recognizes the rights of private property owners to fair compensation and protection of their property interests.
Pipeline companies must negotiate in good faith with landowners and provide fair compensation for any easement rights they seek to acquire across family ranches and similar properties. Landowners are also entitled to receive compensation for any damages that construction or operation of the pipelines causes to their properties. Learn more by contacting an experienced Texas attorney online or by calling us at (832) 390-2644.
Determine the Scope of the Easement
Before entering into negotiations, determine the scope of the pipeline easement and the specific rights the pipeline company seeks to acquire. This may include:
- The size of the easement
- The type of pipeline
- The construction and maintenance activities the company will be allowed to perform on your property
Understanding the scope of an easement may prove challenging if you have limited experience with these matters. A Texas pipeline easement negotiations attorney at Gregor Wynne Arney can help if you’re struggling to fully comprehend the degree to which a proposed easement could impact your property.
Assess the Impact a Pipeline Easement May Have on Your Land
The construction and operation of a pipeline can significantly impact your land. Just a few examples of potential impacts to be aware of include:
- Soil erosion
- Damage to crops
- General changes in land use
Be sure to thoroughly assess these potential impacts. Depending on how you currently use your family ranch and how the construction of a pipeline affects your land, the value of your property (whether in terms of its market value or the value it yields through your use of it) could take a hit. You deserve to be compensated accordingly if this occurs.
Understand Your Compensation Options
Negotiating an easement agreement that ensures you receive fair compensation for the use of your land is critical. It’s also important to understand your potential options for receiving compensation. Examples may include:
- A one-time payment
- Ongoing annual payments
- Additional compensation for property damage
Address Safety and Environmental Concerns
Pipelines can pose significant safety and environmental risks. Potential risks may include:
- Soil/water contamination, if soil is disturbed during the construction process
- Air pollution, as pipelines require compressor stations that could release such potentially harmful chemicals as methane into your air
- Deforestation, as construction of a pipeline on your Texas family ranch may require clearing certain natural habitats
Those are just a few examples. Our attorneys will account for these concerns when negotiating the easement agreement.
Protect Your Water Rights
Do you have water rights on your property? If so, ensure the pipeline company does not interfere with those rights or contaminate your water supply.
A Houston pipeline easement and water rights attorney at Gregor Wynne Arney can help you better understand how to navigate this potential issue by addressing concerns like required monitoring of your water supply and actions required if a spill occurs.
Consider Future Development
A pipeline easement agreement for your family ranch could limit your ability to develop or use the land in certain ways. Thus, you may need to consider how the easement agreement may impact future development plans and negotiate terms that allow for flexibility and future land use.
Consult with Neighbors and the Community
You may wish to consult with your neighbors and other community members before entering into negotiations for a pipeline easement agreement. Be aware, a pipeline could have impacts that extend beyond the property lines of your Texas family ranch. It’s important to consider the potential impacts on the community and environment as a whole when a pipeline company approaches you.
Hire an Attorney
Negotiating a pipeline easement for a family ranch in Texas can be a complex and challenging process, but with the right guidance and expertise, it is possible to protect your rights and interests.
You might assume that you can simply refuse to work with a pipeline company if you don’t want a pipeline running through your property. However, there’s a possibility this may not be an option.
Recently, the Texas Supreme Court determined that Texas Central can exercise the power of eminent domain to acquire properties necessary for the construction of a high-speed rail line. This establishes a precedent that may allow private companies to use eminent domain in the future if they can show that their proposed usage of a property represents a valid and necessary “public use.”
Thus, if a pipeline company approaches you to negotiate an easement, and you refuse to cooperate, the company may attempt to exercise eminent domain power accordingly. Fighting back in these circumstances will be much easier if you have assistance from a qualified attorney.
Whether you’re negotiating a pipeline easement or pushing back against a company that’s improperly trying to use eminent domain powers, at Gregor Wynne Arney PLLC, our Houston lawyers have the experience necessary to provide the representation you deserve. Learn more by contacting us online or by calling us at (832) 390-2644.