Landowners faced with the unwelcome prospect of seeing a pipeline constructed across their land do have options. Here are some of them:
FERC publishes a useful booklet that addesses common landowner questions about gas pipelines:
An Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline on My Land? What do I need to Know?
(129K PDF format)

Much of the preferred route of the proposed natural gas pipelines crosses private land. This means that NYSEG/SVNG and Iroquois will be (or have been) asking the owners of this land for easements - agreements whereby the owner of the property grants unlimited access to the owner of the pipeline crossing the property.

Easements are common and usually benign, but can be devastating for landowners if not carefully written. Landowners need to keep in mind the following:

  • They still own the land and will continue to pay the taxes on it.

  • The recompense for the easement is usually a nominal, one-time payment.

  • The pipeline owners (or their contractors) need not take responsibility for damage to the property. They will not be required to post bond.

  • The value of the property (and that of nearby property) may be reduced.

  • If pipeline construction is approved by the State, landowners who continue to refuse to grant rights-of-way can have a right-of-way taken from them through eminent domain proceedings.

NYSEG/SVNG has not been particularly forthright in their requests for easements. Their asking for waivers and letters of support from Town Planning Commissions from Selectboards without public agreement or discussion, and their insistence that the public be excluded from meetings with landowners have undermined much trust they might otherwise have earned with a more open approach.

Landowners who are approached for easements should, for their own protection, consider the following:

  • Do not negotiate or sign an easement until the project is certified: with approvals in place and construction given the go-ahead.

  • Treat a grant of easement as you would a long-term contract. It should be specific as to what the pipe owners can and cannot do, and as to who has access and under what condtions. Set the conditions under which the easement reverts back to the landower. You especially want to insure that it cannot be sold or deeded without your knowledge or permission

  • The easement should describe the exact boundaries of the right-of-way, so as to preclude the pipe owner implementing last-minute changes to the agreed-upon route. It should also spell out exactly what goes into the trench.

  • Make sure all land surface restoration requirements are spelled out in detail. Include the requirement to rake rocks. All topsoil removed should be segregated and replaced as topsoil.

  • Make sure you know how the right-of-way will be maintained and inspected after the pipe is operational

  • Inventory your property before construction to establish a baseline property condition. In particular, test water supplies before and after construction. Some landowners in Maine report having ongoing problems with their wells after pipeline construction was completed.

Landowners would also be wise to file a Notice Against Trespass with NYSEG/SVNG and the State of Vermont. This will allow the property owner to control access to his property, and can be used to deny unrestricted access to the property by NYSEG employees and VT State Agency officials, who will need to survey the proposed route prior to construction.

Copyright © 1999 by Vermonters for a Clean Environment
Updated: October 6, 1999