The Upside of the Keystone Cancellation

Property owners along the proposed path will not have to deal with this.

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  • +||

    Then Obama is a libertarian hero.

  • ||

    A champion of property rights.

  • +||

    As his campaign ads will later trumpet.

  • Suki||

    The Reason staff was so visionary in voting for him. They rejoice as they prepare David Weigle's old cube for his return.

  • +||

    Brilliant and nefarious!

  • DW||

    I'm not coming back to this hellhole...unless you pay me...one million dollars!

  • ||

    Sounds like TransCanada doesn't know what its doing and would have gotten their asses handed to them with this heavy-handed approach.

  • ||

    Indeed.

    Whether Obama was right or wrong, Transcanada screwed the pooch on its PR campaign.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Mr. Thompson said he intends to fight to keep the pipeline, 36 inches in diameter, off his land.

    Not that it has much of a bearing on the situation, but I was picturing a huge eight foot diameter bohemoth cutting through the heartland.

    Come to think of it, the GOP should offer to build a high speed rail along the pipeline route. That should get the White House all aboard.

  • Yes FOE||

    Since when has the Democrat Party or the American Left-Liberal-Progressive been a friend of private property rights. Witness the Supreme Court. The anti-individualist "lefties" usually come down on the side of state seizure for the benefit of the state or a favored private party rather than the current property owner in eminent domain cases. Go figure.

    Just say "blight".

  • 'murican Pipeline Pardners||

    Yep, that are us.

  • SIV||

    Timothy Sandefur, a lawyer with the Pacific Legal Foundation, a nonprofit advocate for property rights issues, said that if the project is approved, the company will be on firmer ground. As unfair as the laws might seem, he said, the right of way of pipelines and railroads as public goods has been well established, regardless of whether they are foreign-owned. “Property owners almost never win these suits,” he said.

  • Abdul||

    I worked on a couple of lawsuits over a natural gas pipeline. Whereever possible, the company avoids valuable real estate because they have to pay the owner just compensation. 99% of the litigation isn't over the right of the pipeline, but whether the compensation offered is fair or not.

  • poetry||

    Sandefur is probably correct in his analysis, and this might just be me shooting the messenger, but he still sounds like a twat to me.

    I'd like to railroad his pipeline.

  • ||

    I'm all for the pipeline but not at the cost of stealing property from people. If the damn thing is so important then they should be willing to put in the extra money and effort it takes to find a path to the refineries that doesn't involve using eminent domain even if it means their pipeline winds up looking like Michael J. Fox's signature.

  • Suzy Creamcheese||

    Right on. Suspend the sucker from those aerostats that are going in anyway.

  • robc||

    Exactly.

  • ||

    I'm all for the pipeline but not at the cost of stealing property from people.

    Then its a good thing they will be paying for it.

    a path to the refineries that doesn't involve using eminent domain

    You realize that's probably impossible, and without ED for utilities easements most utilities couldn't be put in at all.

    Personally, though, I've always wondered why they can't use existing easements for things like, say, the interstate or railroads for a lot of the route.

    I've looked at, and passed on, several properties that fronted on reasonably major roads, but were bisected by transmission lines. Those lines would run along the roads, and then head cross-country to make a shortcut. Kinda dumb, I thought.

  • poetry||

    Then its a good thing they will be paying for it

    Did you RTFA? They won't be paying for it, because the deal's not going down. Obama ended it, because he's the king and he can end deals if he wants to.

    Now, assuming you meant to say, it's a good thing they would have been paying for it, you're still not exactly being fair. The oil company would have paid the previous landowners, but they (the landowners) wouldn't have any choice in participating in the transaction.

    What I'm trying to say is, eminent domain would still violate people's rights, even if they were "fairly compensated." So you just sound like an asshat defending that process.

  • Abdul||

    I don't know what rights you're talking about. The only right in the Constitution is the right to due process and compensation. It's been settled law that the government can take your land for utilities, roadz, etc. provided that they pay you fair market value.

    The big cases of eminment domain abuse come along where the government uses this power to take property from one owner to give it to another more politically connected owner. In pipeline cases, the landowner retains title to the land, but there is an easement and pipeline running through it.

  • Duke of Anarchy||

    For a long time it was settled law that one person could own another as a slave. It was even recognized in the constitution.

    We want to un-settle eminent domain.

  • robc||

    1. It isnt settled, Kelo was 5-4.

    2. FMV is whatever a willing buyer and a willing seller agree to. Without a willing seller, there is no FMV.

  • Robert||

    No, they don't have to pay fair market value, just just compensation. If they had to pay fair market value, that would be bid up by the gov't's necessity for the project to begin with. Basically in a case like this, there is no such thing as fair market value, only just compensation, as it would be for damages in a lawsuit.

  • ||

    The appraisers for determining offers in right of way cases do use the "fair market value" method. That is the price a willing seller could get from a willing buyer which is not the same thing as what the seller thinks her property is worth.

    In the case of pipeline easements, however, the pipeline company is only seeking partial use of the subject property while the owner gets to continue holding the underlying fee.

    The compensation is then a pecentage of the fair market appraisal of an outright sale, the percentage being based on an estimate of how much the owners enjoyment of his property is impaired by the pipeline companies use of it.

    A developer facing the loss of several lots in a subdivision would have a high impact (probably high enough to make the pipeline company steer away from that kind of density), a farmer with a yearly crop of sorghum, not so much.

    And, yes, property owners do play games with the potential use of their property when faced with a big projest potentially going through their land. Rezoning and hastily preparing plans for a subdivision in advance of a highway project have generated huge windfalls for canny property owners.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Transmission lines are less affected by things that roads and rails have to deal with like grades, water crossings, and drainage. It can be cheaper to just cut straight across terrain that roads need to be routed around. Pipelines have special considerations like gravity and fluid dynamics and ground stability.

    Still, from my engineering point of view, it makes sense to route infrastructure along common adjacent paths and preexisting boundaries. When they cut across places where they could have just followed something that already exists through simple terrain, it looks retarded and may sometimes have something to do with regulatory bullshit.

  • ||

    Eminent domain laws generally allow for the confiscation of private property if taking it is judged to serve a larger public good.

    Nice phrasing.

    You know who else used government force to confiscate private property based on their assertion they "serve a larger public good"?

  • SIV||

    Eisenhower?

  • Raston Bot||

    3' pipe, lease agreement... i dunno. sounds like easy passive income once the construction is complete. but it's not my land. goddamn ED.

  • SIV||

    It is usually (as in always) a one-time payment.They buy property outright for compressor stations though

  • Raston Bot||

    she considered the $42,000 offer — later raised by $18,000 — for a 50-foot easement on her 425 acres

    $60,000 for a 50' easement. Is that 50 sqft? Or 50' wide running the length of her property and could be straight down the middle. Some graphics would really help this article.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Usually, due to the linear nature of a right of way, the easement is established by a dimension of width.

  • ||

    yeah, but 50' for 1000' of distance is alot different than 50' for 100,000 feet.

    425 acres could come out to about 6000 feet laterally is her property was square and and 300000sqft of total row of way. Assuming ROW is a 50% loss of land value, then they're valuing her land at $0.40/sqft. I don't know whether that's fair, but that's the best estimate I can come up with.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I have no doubt that 60k for a 50ft strip across 425 acres is a hell of a lowball.

  • ||

    That she owns 425 acres doesn't mean it crossed all of them, but if it did, at a 45, that's what it comes out to.

  • ||

    Colonel, they aren't buying the land, they're buying the right to bury a pipe on it. The landowner will still be able to do anything else they want to do on the land that won't disturb the pipe.

    OK, they're also buying the right to enter the land for maintenance purposes. But every time they do they have to either restore the property or compensate the owner for any damage they cause.

  • ||

    If they want the land for something that deprives the owner of actual use of the land they have to buy it outright.

    As SIV noted pumping stations and other maintenance facilities require fee simple title.

  • ||

    As the Colonel says the easement is 50' wide and in however long it needs to be to cross the property. The pipe is underground so except for a few markers that warn you not to dig it up you wouldn't know it was there.

    Except form building a house with a basement where the pipeline is you can do just about everything you want on the property.If the pipeline company has to come on your land at any time in life of the pipe for maintenance etc they have to restore it to its former condition.

    Most people are probably seeing the pictures of the Alaska pipeline in their minds when they read about this one. But that's a special case due to the nature of permafrost, tundra etc.

  • robc||

    This is exactly why ED isnt necessary. More than enough people will take the basically free money that routing around the few who refuse should be easy.

    As long as you dont come in threatening lawsuits and acting like an ass.

  • ||

    you try turning a 3 foot diameter pipe....and since it would have to be piggable, you have minimum radiuses to maintain. Intransigent land owners that won't take any amount of money are something the oil industry has to deal with sometimes and the nature of the pipeline can cause all sorts of issues.

    Given that however, TransCanada screwed the PR on this one and probably doomed their line. Another piping corp like El Paso or Williams probably could do it though.

  • SIV||

    Each pipeline has to get its own easement. They often co-locate adjacent to existing utility ROWs.Major highways and RRs are avoided except where they must drill a crossing. They never seem to go on government-owned land unless the pipeline was there first.

  • ||

    Also, the rules for right of way for interstate highways pretty much preclude siting any kind of utilities that are not required for the operation of the highway.

    On the other hand the natural gas pipeline to South Florida uses the right of way of Florida's Turnpike for much of its length.

  • ||

    The BLM is bureaucracy writ large and dealing with cranky old landowners is usually easier than the BLM, and undermanned and uninterested group.

  • ||

    Actually, I was under the impression that getting easements on BLM land was pretty easy as long as you had all your engineering and environmental ducks in a row.

  • ||

    LOL. They'll lose the documentation and come back to you for it several times and take months to review what you sent them. Maybe it varies from department to department across the US, but where I was, it was rediculous. We canceled several projects because the BLM sat on permits for over a year.

  • Isaac Bartram||

    Oh, I see.

  • ||

    A TransCanada spokesman, Shawn Howard, says the company does not have to wait for a license from the State Department to begin securing land. He said the company has tried to obtain voluntary agreements, but when that fails the company has the right to force lease agreements upon landowners in all six states the pipeline would pass through. All of TransCanada’s permit applications, he said, have been made through its subsidiary in Omaha, Keystone Pipeline.

    If this deal really does fall apart, they will still have acquired a valuable asset. It's almost like having the ability to recover a fee for failure to perform.

  • ||

    OK, now we're talking about ED and failure to perform. This thread has officially deteriorated.

  • ||

    "lease"

    they haven't acquired shit. those lease agreements die with the contracts for this line.

  • ||

    "Substantial penalties for early withdrawal."

  • ||

    those lease agreements die with the contracts for this line.

    I defer to your superior familiarity with this stuff, but can't these easements be transferred? If they are conditional on approval of this project, I guess the answer is "no."

  • ||

    Well I'm not a land man either, but from what I've seen from pipeline project, there are two parts, a survey fee and a lease. If you don't end up using the lease, you lose your survey fee, but you haven't paid your lease, so the agreement dissolves per the contract. The contract is not transferrable if any decent lawyer represented the landowner.

  • TransCanada ||

    ""The contract is not transferrable if any decent lawyer represented the landowner.""

    I have some lawyers that will do it for free. Go ahead, pick one.

  • Steven||

    Why don't these oil companies just build some new refineries on the US-Canada border?

  • ||

    You want to see an ugly fight, just try and build a refinery. You'll have a coalition of NIMBY's like you've never seen.

    The last US refinery was completed in the 80's I think.

  • SIV||

    And build some amphibious supertankers?

  • Raston Bot||

    Underutilized TX refineries plus Gulf shipping access already in place. Building a refinery and getting the refined oil out to sea must be a much bigger headache and expense than running pipe and dealing with a hundred or so stubborn landowners.

  • mr lizard||

    Ya, I'm sure there's plenty of unused industrial land in Detroit they could use, or even Buffalo for the matter. Hell it would probably clean those places up a bit.

  • Indiana White||

    Cool. Makes it much easier to gambol along the plains at night without suddenly whacking my head on a pipeline.

  • ||

    Does "gambol along the plains" mean burrowing several feet into the ground?

    That's what you'd have to do to whack your head on this pipeline.

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