Saturday, April 17, 2010

Eminent Domain An Issue In Siting PA Gas Lines

Do pipeline companies have the power of eminent domain in Pennsylvania?  This allows them to put pipelines in wherever they wish even over the objection of property owners.  An article (link below) in the Philadelphia Inquirer suggests that the answer to this question is YES.  There are six pipeline companies registered in PA as utilities, giving them the right to take easements by eminent domain- at a fair-market rate.

There will be a hearing on Thursday, April 22, in Harrisburg to review the Public Utility Commission's regulatory oversight of pipelines and to decide whether or not the rules need to be revised in light of the gas boom now in progress and growing ever larger as the weeks go by.  The PUC regulates smaller, in-state "midstream" pipelines that are declared as utilities, or common carriers.

Eminent domain has become a big problem in Texas where the Barnett Shale is located.  In January, Laser Marcellus Gathering Co. LLC of Houston applied to build a 30-mile pipeline to connect wells in Susquehanna County to the Millenium Pipeline in Broome County, NY.

Pipelines will become an ever-worsening problem wherever gas drilling is in operation.  Pipelines are dangerous and problemmatic, especially the maintenance of them as the years go by and the hidden inner corrosion which can go undetected.

Read the whole article here.


Chris said...

The shale gas "boom" will bring more pipelines to PA and NY; and it won't only be the PUC-regulated companies that exercise eminent domain in Pennsylvania.

Houston-based Spectra Energy has been at it for more than two years. First with a 12-billion cubic feet underground gas storage reservoir in Bedford County, PA, known as "Steckman Ridge." Since it builds INTERstate pipelines, its jurisdictional authority to take property rights comes from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)not the PUC.

Potential hazards, of course, include explosions; but also PCB contamination and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) emissions from the compressors. (Pipelines come with compressors.)

For example, the nearly 5,000 horsepower compressor station at the Steckman Ridge facility has had 23 shutdowns/blowdowns between August 23, 2009 (a big "emergency shutdown") and April 8, 2010. Amazing. Ten of these occurred in the last 4 months of 2009.

These stats are based on unofficial record keeping by nearby landowners, because the DEP says it doesn't keep track and Spectra Energy refuses to release its own count. Not only are VOCs released but sometimes an oily contaminant is released which can shower neighboring properties.

Spectra Energy's pipeline division, Texas Eastern, is active in pipeline expansions in York and Greene Counties. In Greene County, PA, the company's behavior is consistent with what we experienced, as this news report in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review indicates. The headline says it all: "Texas Eastern Transmission's tactics leave landowners feeling bullied." Link:

But property owners can fight back. Our two-year battle against Houston-based Spectra Energy which seized our property rights for an underground gas storage field led to the development of a website which has begun to attract whistle blowers inside the energy industry. We are collaborating and helping property owners in many states. For info, visit the site:

Peacegirl said...

Thank you for your comments here. Very helpful. I'm checking out spectraenergywatch. We're all in this fight together.