Eminent domain concerns near proposed pipeline

 

Federal officials are reviewing comments from people across Central PA concerned about the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline extension. It would run through parts of Lebanon and Lancaster Counties.

If it’s approved, the pipeline company Williams Partners will have the power of eminent domain over the property owners in its path.

“In truth, significant valuable rights are being threatened,” says eminent domain lawyer Michael Faherty, of Lavery, Faherty, Patterson in Harrisburg.

Under the Natural Gas Act, pipeline companies can use eminent domain as a public utility. But homeowners and businesses are guaranteed “just compensation.”

Under PA law, that means they’re entitled to damages: the difference between what the property was worth before and what it’s worth after the 42-inch high pressure line goes in.

pipelineFaherty says sometimes companies will try to pay a landowner by the foot, which can come out to less.

“There’s no duty of fair dealing or good faith negotiations,” says Faherty. “These companies can deceive people and often try to do that.”

Faherty encourages people to get representation and be skeptical. He says companies must often have to reimburse landowners for their attorney fees, relocation costs,  and other damages.

“There’s a number of rights and issues at play here, and a property owner needs to be careful not to be deceived by someone who is trying to deny them their constitutional rights,” says Faherty.

Mindy Roye owns a small mobile home park in Columbia, Lancaster County. Three drafts of the proposed pipeline have shown it next to her property, closer each time.

“We’re the types of people, we want to do this ourselves, we don’t want to go out by a multi-billion dollar company,” says Roye.

Williams Partners says this project will expand the Transco pipeline, which transports 10 percent of the natural gas consumed in the U.S., and that it supports energy independence.

A spokesman says the final proposed route will not be set until next year.