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Guest Column

August 3, 2013

Pipeline firm is offering landowners a raw deal

I met with Bob Lidsky the other day, a Davenport landowner whose property sits in the path of the proposed “Constitution Pipeline.” Bob told me about his interactions with the pipeline company’s “Right of Way Agent,” and showed me the documents he had received.

The agent’s introductory letter starts with a conflict of interest: “My responsibility is to be the ‘voice’ of the Constitution [sic] directly with you, (landowner) as well as to represent ‘your voice’ and best interest to communicate and work in ‘good faith’ negotiations.”

The agent is working for the interests of the pipeline company; it is unethical to claim to also represent the landowner’s best interests.

Although the Right of Way agreement gives the company access to the entire property, landowners are only offered three times the value of the 50-foot strip of “impacted acreage” where the pipeline will lie.

This one-time monetary offer is the only payment for any damages the company might cause during installation of the pipeline. No compensation whatever is offered for loss of property value.

Signing within three months gets the landowner three times the value of the impacted acreage. Signing during the next three months brings only twice the value, and waiting beyond that results in a payment of only 1½ times the value.

This puts a lot of pressure on the landowner to make a quick decision and sign the agreement without taking time to do the necessary research in order to make an informed decision.

There are many potential consequences of signing the pipeline company’s Right of Way agreement. Mortgages generally prohibit hazardous activity and hazardous substances from being on the mortgaged property. Will the landowner be able to get a mortgage to build a home if there’s an easement for a gas pipeline on the land? Will the landowner be able to sell the land later with this limitation on the property?

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