Pipeline Rights vs Private Property Rights

Hand, Mark
http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/12/pipeline-rights-vs-private-property-rights/

Publisher:  CounterPunch
Date Written:  12/04/2016
Year Published:  2016  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX19219

The U.S. natural gas industry views private property with less reverence than it did when the shale gas revolution began 10 years ago. Companies are chomping at the bit to build new pipelines that will move natural gas and natural gas liquids to profitable markets. However, building a single long-haul pipeline is a timely and costly endeavour that often requires working with hundreds of individual private property owners to create a right of way.

Abstract: 
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Excerpt:

The U.S. natural gas industry views private property with less reverence than it did when the shale gas revolution began 10 years ago.

Companies are chomping at the bit to build new pipelines that will move natural gas and natural gas liquids to profitable markets. However, building a single long-haul pipeline is a timely and costly endeavor that often requires working with hundreds of individual private property owners to create a right of way.

At the dawn of the shale gas revolution, private property was held as sacred by natural gas producers. A major reason why the shale gas revolution was stronger in the United States than in other countries, according to experts, was because the private ownership of subsurface rights in the United States provided an incentive to property owners to lease their land to natural gas producers. In Europe and other regions around the world, the national government often owns the mineral rights, which makes it harder for energy companies to negotiate contracts.

A funny thing happened, though, when the industry started making plans to build new pipelines that would deliver the growing volumes of produced gas to markets where they could get top dollar. The industry often found private property rights stood in the way of their large-diameter pipelines through greenfield areas.

..

But the sanctity of private property rights lost its appeal among state officials when it hindered the growth of the industry.

Government agencies, along with federal and state courts, are coming to the industry’s rescue in Pennsylvania and other states as they grant pipeline companies permission to seize private property through the use of eminent domain. Federal and state officials are zealously defending the rights of pipeline companies to confiscate private property to build pipelines, even when there is no public benefit to the property owners, like the Gerharts, whose land is being seized.

Regulators, at the request of pipeline companies, are classifying the proposed pipelines as in the “public interest,” and the courts are threatening private property owners with fines, prison time and even violence at the hands of federal marshals and state and local police if they refuse to allow pipeline companies access to their property.

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