Author Archive | Eminent Domain PA

Update: Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline in Lebanon County

The Lebanon Pipeline Awareness group continues to oppose the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline of the Williams Company. Below is a letter sent out from this group with more information and updates on the issue.

Greetings,

Fall is here! Hope everyone is enjoying the harvest season as the leaves change and the days turn shorter. We welcome all those new to our contact list.

Some of you may have received a mailing from us concerning easement offers from Williams. We know these offers have been made in Lancaster County – where some landowners have publicly refused the offer – and we have also heard that offers have been made in Schuylkill County. If you received an offer, please let us know; we’d like to know if Lebanon County landowners are receiving offers at this time.

Because this is an important issue and we want to be sure we did not miss anyone, we are including the information here that was in the mailing. If you have received an offer or will in the future, we urge you to consider the following:

Whether you are opposed to this pipeline or not, the fact remains that this first offer is probably not the best offer you can receive. Before you sign an agreement with Williams, please consider the following:
FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) has not yet approved this project. Therefore, be aware that—while Williams reserves the right to alter the course or otherwise change project details—you are locked into a legally binding contract without that same right to alter the terms of the agreement.

Once a Right of Way (ROW), always a ROW. Once the gas company establishes a ROW, they have the right to access it whenever they want, utilizing your property for future pipeline construction, expansion, replacement, or additional infrastructure requirements such as compressor stations or pumping stations. You are not simply saying “yes” to this high-pressure 42-inch line, but to additional projects they envision for this same ROW in the future.

Homeowners’ Insurance and Mortgages: Be sure to call your insurance carrier and mortgage provider to inquire how this pipeline would affect your insurance coverage and mortgage rates. Some insurance and mortgage companies are refusing to take the risk and therefore denying coverage—OR, even if they do not drop your coverage, they may refuse to cover any damages relating to pipeline failures (accidents, leaks, water contamination, explosions, etc.). That means if there is any kind of accident in the future (or unforeseen damage done to your property during the installation), you would have to sue the gas company for any compensation. Williams’ insurance covers Williams—not you!

Property Values: If you had any inclination to sell your home in the future, the price of your property will likely decline substantially as a result of this project. This is particularly the case in scenic, rural areas—far more so than in urban or industrial areas.

In addition, a document containing useful information from the following websites was included:

Landowner’s Rights – Pipeline Safety Coalition – http://www.pscoalition.org/pages/landowners-rights

Eminent domain law firm Lavery Law offers a website list of examples of case settlements that show the original offer and the final settlement – http://www.laverylaw.com/news/eminent_news.php

We hope you will review this information and strongly urge you to get legal representation before signing any agreement for the pipeline. Remember that Williams is negotiating for their best deal, not yours.

Other news

Atlantic Sunrise Updates
Williams announced its environmental stewardship program this week. Read what Lancaster County residents had to say about the program in this article. We at Lebanon Pipeline Awareness agree: It seems quite unfair that community environmental organizations, no matter how well-intentioned and how much good community work they do, should be included in discussions and receive possible benefits when landowners are excluded from these talks and are taking a personal loss. This is just one more way that Williams will try divide a community by creating winners and losers.

South Londonderry Township
A community group is forming in South Londonderry Township! The first meeting for interested South Londonderry Township residents will take place Tuesday, October 21, at 6 p.m. Please contact us at lebanonpipeline@gmail.com for details if you are interested in joining this group.

Union Township
We would like to hold a community information meeting in Union Township and are searching for a place to meet. If you can help us locate a meeting place, please let us know.

We intend to hold meetings in all the townships along the pipeline in Lebanon County. If you are willing to help organize a community meeting in your township, by all means contact us!

The opposition grows!
Martic Township became the first municipality in Lancaster County along the pipeline to officially oppose the Atlantic Sunrise project. The supervisors voted 5-0 to say NO to the pipeline after hearing from their constituents that the pipeline is not in their best interest.  Read the article here.

Have you asked your township supervisors where they stand on the pipeline? With the upcoming election, have you questioned the candidates about the pipeline? They cannot know your opinion unless they hear from you, so we urge all of you to talk to your elected officials and candidates now and let them know how you feel about the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. Always remember that your legislators – from local to federal – were elected to represent you!

Upcoming Events
LANCASTER COUNTY PIPELINE INFORMATIONAL MEETING
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2014 – TONIGHT!!!

WHEN: Thursday, October 16, 2014
TIME: 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.
WHERE: Farm and Home Center, 1383 Arcadia Road, Lancaster, PA

We don’t know what seating will be available at this meeting presented by the Lancaster Farmland Trust and The Lancaster County Conservancy, but it is open to the public.

RALLY TO SUPPORT LANDOWNERS & NEIGHBORS IN LANCASTER COUNTY
OCTOBER 25 AT NOON IN BINNS PARK, LANCASTER CITY

Show your support for our southern neighbors by attending this rally planned to show landowners along the pipeline that they are not alone. Find more details on the event here.

Would you like to see a pipeline event in Lebanon County? We sure would, but we need your help. Contact us with your ideas at lebanonpipeline@gmail.com.

As always we thank you for your interest and support – and remind you to follow our blog and Facebook page to keep up with the latest pipeline news.

On behalf of Lebanon Pipeline Awareness,

Ann

Ann Pinca
lebanonpipeline@gmail.com

Philadelphia Airport Redesigns Expansion Plans to Avoid Tinicum Township Homes

Laverylaw.com advised elected officials and residents of Tinicum Township that the Philadelphia Airport had the power of eminent domain in Philadelphia, but not in Tinicum Township. The Philadelphia Airport agreed to redesign the multibillion dollar expansion to avoid 72 homes and multiple businesses in Tinicum Township.

Philadelphia airport expansion won’t displace residents, officials say

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Reading Eagle.com/AP


Plans to boost the regional economy through a multibillion-dollar modernization of Philadelphia International Airport can move forward without displacing hundreds of nearby residents, officials said Monday.
A reconfiguration of the proposed expansion has resolved a yearslong dispute with adjacent Tinicum Township that had kept the project in limbo because it threatened the demolition of 72 homes and about a dozen businesses. The development will no longer encroach on that land.

Local leaders described the agreement as a victory for jeopardized residents and the area as a whole. The project could boost the airport’s regional economic impact from $14.4 billion in 2006 to $26.4 billion by 2025, officials said. “Today’s announcement is a triumph for everyone from the baggage handler to the corporate executive, from the vacation traveler to the airlines,” Delaware County Council chairman Thomas McGarrigle said.

The expansion is designed to make one of the nation’s busiest airports more competitive by reducing delays and adding capacity and services. Expected improvements include an extra runway, an automated people mover and a new ground transportation center over the next 12 to 15 years. The agreement announced at an airport news conference would settle four pending lawsuits among the township, county, city of Philadelphia and Interboro School District. It still requires approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The deal calls for the city-owned airport to make a collective payment of nearly $1.9 million annually to the township, county and schools. Tinicum will get an additional $1 million per year for 20 years, or until the expansion is done. The airport had previously made lower annual payments to those taxing authorities but stopped when litigation began in 2007, officials said. The funds are meant to offset lost revenue potential from airport-occupied land in Tinicum. The dispute had been so intractable that many residents thought it would never be resolved, said Thomas Giancristoforo, president of the township’s board of commissioners.

“They have been patient over these many years as we worked to make sure the residents of Tinicum were heard, respected and protected as the plans for the airport expansion have evolved,” he said. The airport served nearly 31 million passengers last year and accommodated more than 400,000 takeoffs and landings. But officials stressed the need to grow, noting the facility has become a hub for the world’s largest airline now that American Airlines has merged with US Airways.

“If we stand still, we fall behind,” said Rina Cutler, the city’s deputy mayor for transportation. Early estimates pegged the cost of the expansion at $6.4 billion, but airport CEO Mark Gale said Monday the figure could change. The mammoth project would create about 4,460 construction jobs and 1,830 professional service jobs, officials said.

The airport employs about 22,000 direct workers and supports 141,000 regional jobs, Gale said.

Revised Language Helps in Settlement with Pipeline Company

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A property owner was facing the threat of eminent domain by a pipeline company. The pipeline company offered $63,390 based on a linear foot calculation. Laverylaw.com represented this property owner and was able to settle the matter with revised language which described:

• A single pipeline
• A pipeline buried to a depth of four feet across crop fields
• Property owner use of timber and
• Restricted access language.

The matter settled for $330,000.

Disclaimer: case results are dependent on the facts of the particular case. Prior cases do not provide any guarantee or expectation of the outcome of a future case.

Cox v. Sunoco Pipeline

sun_updateThe Washington County Judge has provided an additional stay, or delay, in the consolidation cases to allow for the parties to resolve the cases. The involved four cases with property owner representation by Laverylaw.com have progressed to written resolutions. The property owners agreed to modified and restricted easement language with large financial settlements. Cox v. Sunoco is expected to be fully resolved, without a decision on eminent domain power, by September of 2014.

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Proposed in Lebanon County

An attorney from Laverylaw.com attended the Lebanon County presentation by Williams Company concerning the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. A company representative indicated plans for 50 foot wide permanent pipeline easements and 75 foot wide temporary easements. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to consider a pipeline proposal. Williams Company is expected to attempt to purchase easements based on linear foot calculations. In truth, property owners at entitled to just compensation as defined by before minus after value as damages per the Pennsylvania Eminent Domain Code.

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Lebanon County residents look over maps showing the route of Williams’ proposed natural-gas pipeline during an open house Tuesday night at Annville-Cleona High School. Many of those attending the meeting expressed concern over the proposed route. (Les Stewart — Lebanon Daily News)

 

Open house at Annville-Cleona draws residents concerned over natural-gas pipeline proposal

Lebanon Daily News
By Les Stewart
 

Some expressed concern for their safety, some sought more information, and some are against the whole idea.

Those were among the reactions during an open house Tuesday night for a proposed natural-gas pipeline that Oklahoma-based Williams wants to build across Lebanon County.

Some 300 people examined maps spread out on tables showing the proposed pipeline route during the meeting at Annville-Cleona High School to see how the proposed pipeline would affect their properties.

Maps of the proposed 27-mile Central Penn South line show the pipeline crossing from Pine Grove Township in Schuylkill County into Lebanon County near Swatara State Park. The pipeline skirts the northern edge of the park in Union Township before doglegging south near Lickdale. From there, it continues south through East Hanover, North Annville, South Annville and South Londonderry townships before entering Lancaster County at Lawn.

The project is part of Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise Project, a 176-mile pipeline that would connect to the company’s pipelines in natural gas-rich northeastern Pennsylvania to its 10,200 miles of distribution pipelines stretching from the Texas Gulf Coast to New York.

Although the pipeline will not go through his property, Grant Taylor of North Annville Township said it is close enough that it has him concerned. “If those lines blow up, and they make a 50-foot crater, the proposed pipeline would be 25 feet away from my house,” he said. “My family’s safety is number one.” Taylor said he was also concerned an old growth of trees near his home would be knocked down to make way for the pipeline. In addition, he worries how the pipeline might affect his water supply.

Patrick Kerwin, also of North Annville, noted the pipeline crossing an area underlain by limestone that is prone to sinkholes. If the pipeline were to break, he said, it would pollute the area’s water supply. He also wondered how the expansion of the Millard Quarry would affect the proposed pipeline. “It just seems like we’re looking for trouble,” Kerwin said. “It seems like there ought to be better route than through unstable limestone.”

Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz said residents should have a meeting with company officials to get more answers. The Tuesday open house, she said, seemed like “a show and tell like we did in first grade.” People have questions about the project, she added. They want to know the pipeline will be safe, and their properties and their water will be safe. “They deserve real answers,” she said.

Litz said she asked company officials for a complete set of maps showing the proposed route and was told it would take several weeks to get them. She said she also asked why the company could not build the pipeline across its existing pipeline. “Why are they cutting across our precious farmland?” she asked. Litz said she has heard stories that banks will not provide mortgages, and insurance companies will not write insurance policies for properties with a gas line running through them.

Williams spokesman Christopher Stockton said the company has heard those stories as well. He said Williams has contacted some of the lenders that people have cited and found that is not the case. He said Williams operates 15,000 miles of pipeline across the country, and “that has not been an issue at all.” Williams is aware of concerns about the path of the pipeline near areas underlain by limestone, Stockton said. The company will conduct extensive studies looking for problem areas to ensure the safety of the pipeline. “At the end of the day, the safe operation of the pipeline is our number-one priority,” he said.

For example, Stockton said, the company goes beyond federal requirements regarding welds on its pipelines. Stockton said there is now more natural gas production in Pennsylvania than in the Gulf of Mexico. In the past, natural gas was transported from the south to the north, he said. The Pennsylvania portion is part of a $3 billion project that will run through five states, he said. “This project turns the pipeline around,” he said, allowing for gas produced in the north to be shipped toward the Gulf Coast.

Robin Maguire of Conestoga and Tim Spiese of Martic Township, Lancaster County, both said they were against the whole idea of the project. Maguire said she believed all the gas would be headed to overseas markets. Spiese said he was concerned the pipeline company will take the land it wants through eminent domain. Lebanon Pipeline Awareness, a local group against the project, set up a table outside the high school and invited those attending the open house to sign a petition asking the county commissioners to hold a public meeting to allow residents to get more answers about the project.

Litz said she would favor that type of meeting.

Pipeline Easement Settlement

pipeline_easment

A pipeline company sought a pipeline easement along the edge of a commercial property in Reading, Pennsylvania. The pipeline company offered $35,000.00 for the easement. Laverylaw.com provided representation and pointed out that the easement rights interfered with access. During the course of negotiations, the pipeline company obtained approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the pipeline. The matter settled with language to protect the commercial sign for the property and to reduce the rights from multiple pipelines to a single pipeline. The matter settled for $85,000.00.

Disclaimer: case results are dependent on the facts of the particular case. Prior cases do not provide any guarantee or expectation of the outcome of a future case.

Sunoco v. Loper

York County President Judge Linebaugh previoulsy denied the Sunoco request for eminent domain/survey rights. Judge Linebaugh’s later denial of the Motion for Reconsideration occurred on March 25, 2014. The following day Sunoco filed a Praecipe to Discontinue. On April 11, 2014 Sunoco filed a Motion to Strike Praecipe to Discontinue. On April 17, 2014 Judge Linebaugh heard oral argument concerning the Motion to Strike Praecipe to Discontinue. Laverylaw.com representation pointed out five procedural deficiencies in the Motion. The Laverylaw.com attorney argued that the Request to Discontinue should be denied because Sunoco failed to show prejudice.

He also argued prejudice to the property owners, the Lopers, if Sunoco was allowed to switch its position concerning discontinuance after Judge Linebaugh’s definitive March 25, 2014 Order. Judge  Linebaugh indicted he was not inclined to decide the Sunoco request prior to the appeal deadline concerning Judge Linebaugh’s March 25, 2014 Order. He proceeded with a dictated Order from the bench indicating that Sunoco’s Motion to Strike Praecipe to Discontinue would be taken under advisement.

The significance is that Judge Linebaugh is not now inclined to provide any further Orders before the appeal deadline of approximately April 24, 2014. Thus, Judge Linebaugh’s Orders denying eminent domain/survey rights could become final as of April 24, 2014.

Judge Rules that Sunoco Pipeline Does Not Have Eminent Domain Power

deniedOn February 24, 2014 President Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh of York County, Pennsylvania, denied the Sunoco Pipeline Motion of for Survey Rights for the Mariner East 2 Pipeline.  The Judge adopted the argument of Laverylaw.com and ruled:

Defendant argues that Plaintiff is not in fact a “public utility corporation” under the Business Corporation Law. Defendant first argues that Plaintiff is not a public utility regulated by FERC
and is therefore not a public utility corporation under the Pennsylvania Business Corporation Law.  The Court agrees.  As Plaintiff repeatedly argues, it is regulated by FERC pursuant to
the Interstate Commerce Act, and not the Natural Gas Act, as a common carrier, and not as a public utility.  It therefore does not fall within the definition of a public utility corporation entitled to condemn property.

The ruling represents a significant victory for the protection of the property rights of those threatened by the Mariner East or the Mariner East II project.

Sunoco Pipeline – Survey Rights

survey_rightsLaverylaw.com counsel appeared in the York County Court of Common Pleas on February 6, 2014, to oppose a Sunoco pipeline (Mariner East) request for an immediate right to survey a Mechanicsburg property.  Our attorney argued that the request should be denied because federal jurisdiction preempted the state jurisdiction or because Sunoco failed to correctly start litigation per Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. In the alternative, we argued for denial of the request because:  (1) Sunoco is not a Condemnor, (2) Pennsylvania Business Corporation Law does not allow eminent domain for propane or ethane transportation, (3) Federal law requires a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, and (4) State law requires a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. The judge approved our suggestion that the judge accept written argument over the following two weeks.

Property Owners take Sunoco’s Mariner East Pipeline to Court in Washington, PA

Laverylaw.com counsel represented multiple property owners vs. Sunoco Pipeline on January 21 before Judge Emery in Washington, Pa.  Our attorney pointed out that the Sunoco legal authority to date has yet to identify any specific law giving eminent domain power for the Mariner East Pipeline.  Our counsel also elicited evidence that the appraisal approach was wrong per the Eminent Domain Code and the bond security was inadequate.  Judge Emery may decide the initial four cases within a month.

Pa. Eminent Domain Pipeline Fight Headed to Court

NBC 10 Philadelphia | Sunday, Jan 19, 2014

Ron and Sallie Cox’s house in North Strabane Township is nestled behind a lush forest they are fighting to protect from a new natural gas pipeline inching toward their property.

The couple are so adamant about preserving their land that they have found themselves among more than two dozen property owners in Washington County involved in a complicated legal battle challenging Sunoco Pipeline’s right to cross their land. “It’s a disaster,” Sallie Cox said last week as her attorney prepared their case against the Philadelphia-based company’s claims it’s a public utility and has a right to impose eminent domain powers to enter private property for the 50-foot-wide project.

Arguments in the Cox case will be heard Tuesday in Washington County Court, and it’s outcome likely will set the tone for how the others will play out as Sunoco constructs a 50-mile pipeline from Washington County to Delmont in Westmoreland County. Sunoco began filing declarations of taking in Washington County Court last year, lawsuits that sought to condemn property and have the court approve the amount of bonds it needed to post to cover any damages.

President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca ruled the cases are too complicated to hear individually and consolidated them Nov. 11. The Coxes then claimed they were being treated unfairly and challenged Sunoco’s public utility status. Eight others involved in the case also countersued.

As a result, Washington County Judge Katherine B. Emery ruled the countersuits need to be settled before the company can proceed with condemnations, and she will proceed first with hearing arguments in the Cox appeal as to whether Sunoco is a public utility.

The Coxes are among those who don’t want the pipeline and have complained that they wouldn’t be allowed to plant anything on the right of way and don’t want to deal with the company spraying to maintain a clear path for the pipeline. “I’m one of the people here who has the most to lose,” said the Coxes’ neighbor, Raymond Romanetti, who races horses and has yet to join the lawsuit. “It’s ridiculous that someone has to hire an attorney to protect their property,” Romanetti said.

In Sunoco’s Jan. 10 answer to the court, its attorneys argue it has eminent domain powers under FERC rules, which permit privately held companies to build an interstate pipeline, court records show.

This pipeline, named Mariner East, would connect to MarkWest Energy’s gas-processing plant in Chartiers Township and hook up to an existing, nearly 20-year-old line crossing Pennsylvania into Delaware. Range Resources of Southpointe is a partner and would ship ethane and propane in the pipeline from MarkWest, company spokesman Matt Pitzarella said. “Obviously, it’s an important project to us,” Pitzarella said.

Sunoco states in court records it no longer wishes to voluntarily negotiate purchase prices for the unsettled cases due to the “anticipated delay” of the project. Company spokesman Jeffrey P. Shields said Sunoco doesn’t comment on pending litigation. When the project was announced in March Sunoco expected construction to be underway before the end of last year.

“We are in the process of clearing right of ways and flagging construction areas, and we started directional drills and boring this week,” Shields said. “We expect to begin installing pipe in the next two weeks,” he added.