Monthly Archives: May 2015

Court denies pipeline company the power of eminent domain

Hot pink ribbons were tied to fences, trees and wooden stakes to mark the route through one farm in Stamping Ground where two energy companies would install a pipeline to carry natural gas liquids generated by fracking in states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Court of Appeals rules pipeline company does not have power of eminent domain in Kentucky

By: Greg Kocher

In a 3-0 decision, the Kentucky Court of Appeals said Friday that Bluegrass Pipeline LLC did not have the power of eminent domain because it was not a utility regulated by the Public Service Commission.

Because the natural gas liquids are not directly reaching Kentucky consumers, “the pipeline cannot said to be in the public service of Kentucky,” the court said.

The decision is a victory for landowners who had opposed efforts to put a natural gas liquids pipeline across 13 Kentucky counties, said Tom FitzGerald, the attorney who represented a group called Kentuckians United to Restrain Eminent Domain, or KURED.

“My clients are very pleased,” FitzGerald said. “I’m very proud of them, that they were willing to stand up for their brothers and sisters across the commonwealth, to vindicate the right of private landowners to be dealt with in a fair and non-duress manner when it comes to acquiring easements for projects that are not utility projects.”

FitzGerald had argued that a natural gas liquids pipeline does not serve Kentucky customers in the way that natural gas does for home heating and cooking.

Friday’s decision means only regulated natural gas utilities, such as Atmos, LG&E and Columbia Gas and others regulated by the PSC, can invoke eminent domain, FitzGerald said.

The Court of Appeals decision also affects Kinder Morgan’s plan to convert or “repurpose” its Tennessee Gas Pipeline, which transports natural gas, into a conveyance for natural gas liquids. That existing line crosses 18 Kentucky counties, from Greenup County in the north to Simpson County on the Tennessee line.

Some property owners have received letters from Tennessee Gas Pipeline in which the company says it “may initiate eminent domain proceedings in state or federal court to acquire an interest in your property.”

But Friday’s decision “forecloses any claim that Kinder Morgan might have with respect to the repurposed line if they need any new easements,” FitzGerald said. “They’ll have to get those new easements on a willing-seller basis rather than holding out the prospect of eminent domain.”

Gregory Parsons, an attorney for Bluegrass Pipeline, said the Court of Appeals decision had been forwarded to the company “and we really haven’t had an opportunity to discuss it yet.”

Bluegrass Pipeline could seek a rehearing before the Court of Appeals or could seek discretionary review from the Kentucky Supreme Court, FitzGerald said.

The Court of Appeals decision affirmed Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd’s ruling last year that the pipeline company does not possess the ability to condemn property through eminent domain.

Bluegrass Pipeline wanted to build a line to carry natural gas liquids across 13 Kentucky counties, but many citizens opposed the project, saying the flammable liquids posed environmental and safety concerns.

A year ago, the two companies proposing to build Bluegrass Pipeline halted the project and suspended investment into it because they said it had not received the necessary customer commitments to move forward.

By |May 28th, 2015|Categories: Pipeline Construction|

Mike Faherty speaks at meeting concerning Sunbury Pipeline

Attorney Michael Faherty uses an exercise ball to illustrate the diameter of the proposed Sunbury Pipeline. On the table is a piece of an eight-inch main pipe.

Lawyer: Know your gas pipeline rights

By Evamarie Socha/The Daily Item

Real estate property values are very subjective, he said. “Your rights are much more valuable than they’d have you believe,” and the harm that can come from an explosion or leak “could be greater than what (the gas company) is offering. “What’s in writing counts,” Faherty said; that is among things settled in an eminent domain negotiation. To that end, Faherty’s advice was be careful, and get a lawyer

UGI Sunbury officials have been advising the same thing, said spokesman Ken Robinson. “We’ve told people: get a lawyer, make sure you know what you’re doing and what your rights are,” not just because it’s the right thing to do but because UGI also is part of the communities where the pipeline will run.

“UGI Sunbury has gone out of its way to be as open and available to the property owners as it can be,” Robinson said. It has set up information systems to field questions that has delivered answers to people within 24 hours. “We feel better about this knowing what we know,” he said. “The company has gone out of its way to be open and available, and frankly to characterize it as anything else is unfair.”

While giving a nod to environmental advocates who want to organize and defeat the pipeline project, “to my knowledge, those efforts never succeed,” Faherty said, especially with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which ultimately will approve or reject the project. “I expect the Sunbury Pipeline will be approved,” he said. “You need an advocate; get someone. Your rights are different than what you are being told.”

Faherty’s own compensation is one-third of the increased monetary agreement over the original offer made to a property owner, he said. A list of “pipeline settlements” Faherty provided show he has obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars for easement agreements and specific individual terms for his clients.

By |May 26th, 2015|Categories: Pipeline Construction|

Pipeline Safety Remains an Issue

May 19, 2015: This photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department shows an oil slick from a broken pipeline off the central California coast near Santa Barbara. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

Pipeline safety remains an important issue to all but especially when land owners are faced with pipeline construction on their property.

On Tuesday, a 24 inch pipeline ruptured along the Santa Barbara coast spilling an estimated 21,000-gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean. Incidentally, this is the same stretch of coastline which suffered a massive oil spill in 1969 which is credited to the rise of the American environmental movement. The cause of the break in the pipeline is unknown at this time. Owen Bailey, executive director of the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center said, “Unfortunately, with accidents and oil development it is not a question of if, but of when.”

Burst pipeline spills 21,000 gallons of oil into ocean off California

Published May 20, 2015 Associated Press

GOLETA, Calif. –  Cleanup crews fanned out Wednesday along a stretch of scenic California coastline stained by thousands of gallons of crude oil that spilled from a broken pipe and flowed into the Pacific Ocean. Workers from an environmental cleanup company strapped on boots and gloves and picked up shovels and rakes to tackle the gobs of goo stuck to sand and rocks along Refugio State Beach on the southern Santa Barbara County coast. The accident Tuesday happened on the same stretch of coastline as a 1969 spill, which was the largest ever in U.S. waters at the time and is credited with giving rise to the American environmental movement.

Members of the International Bird Rescue organization were also on hand Wednesday to clean any birds that become covered with oil, though none were immediately spotted in the calm seas that produced small waves. Fan Yang, 26, of Indianapolis, stood on a bluff overlooking the beach, where the stench of petroleum was heavy. “It smells like what they use to pave the roads,” said Yang, who was hoping to find cleaner beaches in Santa Barbara. “I’m sad for the birds — if they lose their habitat.”

The broken onshore pipeline spewed oil down a storm drain and into the ocean for several hours Tuesday before it was shut off, creating a slick some 4 miles long about 20 miles west of Santa Barbara. Initial estimates put the spill at about 21,000 gallons, but that figure would likely change after a Wednesday flyover gave a better sense of the scope, U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Jennifer Williams said.

Authorities responding to reports of a foul smell near Refugio State Beach around noon found a half-mile slick in the ocean, county fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said. They traced the oil to the pipeline that spilled into a culvert running under a highway and into a storm drain that empties into the ocean.

The 24-inch pipeline was shut off about three hours later. It’s owned by Plains All American Pipeline, which said it stopped the flow of oil and blocked the culvert.

“Plains deeply regrets this release has occurred and is making every effort to limit its environmental impact,” the company said in a statement. After the spill, boats from the nonprofit collective Clean Seas helped with cleanup but were having trouble because much of the oil was close to shore, Williams said. About 850 gallons of oil have been recovered from the water, she said.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has closed fishing and shellfish harvesting for a mile east and west of the beach. The area is home to offshore oil rigs, and small amounts of tar from natural seepage regularly show up on beaches. In 1969, several hundred thousand gallons spilled from a blowout on an oil platform and thousands of seabirds and many marine mammals were killed.

The oil industry brings risks, said Bob Deans, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Santa Barbara learned that lesson over 40 years ago when offshore drilling led to disaster,” he said in a statement. The Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center said having the spill occur in “a sensitive and treasured environment is devastating to watch.” The group was concerned about whales that migrate through the area.

“Oil spills are part of the ugly cost of fossil fuel development, made even worse by aging domestic infrastructure,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director for the Center for Biological Diversity. It was unclear how long the cleanup would take and whether Refugio beach and other areas would be reopened in time for Memorial Day weekend.

By |May 21st, 2015|Categories: Pipeline Construction|

Mariner East 2 and Prior Easement


Sunoco Pipeline proceeded to Cumberland County Court seeking a preliminary injunction to obtain the opportunity to survey two large properties. Sunoco asserted survey rights based on prior easements and based on eminent domain power. Mike Faherty litigated for the owners. Judge Edward E. Guido granted survey rights. Favorably for the owners, he based the survey right on the old easement, not on any new eminent domain power.

By |May 12th, 2015|Categories: Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|

Mike Faherty speaks at Landowners Meeting

Meeting on pipeline project advises landowners of rights

Written by: Elizabeth Gibson, For PennLive.
Published in: Patriot News, May 2, 2015

Allen Trayer picked up some new tools in his fight against a Sunoco Logistics project that is bringing a new oil pipeline through Pennsylvania along the same path as an existing line.

The North Middleton Township landowner was among 50 residents who learned about landowner rights and the steps they can take to protect those rights during a meeting hosted in Carlisle by Cumberland and Perry Pipeline Awareness

Attorney Michael Faherty talked about contract terms that landowners could seek to be sure they aren’t giving away valuable rights if they agree to allow the line that is under construction to cross their property.

He said that landowners must be wary of any activity on their property that they haven’t agreed to, including a seemingly harmless survey of their land.

The existing pipeline crosses Trayer’s land.

Trayer’s neighbor, Scott Martin, said legal expertise on the pipeline project is needed by landowners who oppose the project on the grounds that it poses safety concerns.

By |May 7th, 2015|Categories: Pipeline Construction|