Landowners faced with the unwelcome prospect of seeing
a pipeline constructed across their land do have options.
Here are some of them:
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
- 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
- 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.