Pipeline Companies Should Pay for Full Value of Easements

Creating corridors to deliver goods to market while respecting property rights is one of the oldest dilemmas for Texas businesses and landowners.

When land was plentiful and the population small, cotton planters donated land and slave labor to build some of the first farm-to-market roads in the 1840s. When railroads and highways starting inching north from Houston, most ranchers and farmers in the 1850s welcomed the chance to sell a sliver of land to get their products to market more efficiently and profitably. Other resented the intrusion.

With more than 1,000 people a day moving to Texas, land is becoming more valuable at the same time that the Texas Railroad Commission issued 270 new pipeline permits last year to deliver growing amounts of oil and natural gas.

The result is costly court battles over how much pipelines have to pay for an easement and its effect on surrounding property.

A trial forces the pipeline company to defend its appraisal, and even if the property owner gets what he or she thinks is the full value of the land, the attorney and expert witness fees must be paid from the proceeds. But too often, it's the landowner's only recourse.
May 20, 2014
Houston Chronicle