Landowners’ Rights, Power Lines and Pipelines

Question for today: Will landowners whose property is subject to eminent domain learn about their rights before the utility land acquisition folks come with their small checkbooks and large vats of snake oil to make a first offer?

The good news is that, this fall,  in the CapX2020 Brookings high voltage power line case ,the Public Utilities Commission ordered that the utilities provide each landowner with a Fact Sheet explaining their rights at the time of the utilities’ first contact with the land owner. This is the first such notice ever required by the Commission and is particularly valuable  because the Minnesota Legislature in the 2010 session just adopted laws requiring utilities to negotiate in good faith, provide appraisals and provide fair compensation when they take property rights for power lines and pipelines.

But, nothing is ever simple. The Commission ordered staff at the Office of Energy Security (OES) to prepare the fact sheet. Their draft, however well-intentioned it might have been, was six very confusing pages. You can see it here if you would like. OES Landowner Fact Sheet. Or you can take my word that it was impenetrable.

I drafted and submitted a revised Landowner Fact Sheet, trying to keep as much of the tone and text from the OES as I could while simplifying and clarifying what landowners could expect and what their rights might be. My alternative proposal is attached here. .

If you care about making sure that landowners can actually understand their rights when they receive notice, feel free to join the conversation and send the Commission a letter or email asking that they adopt my revised 11/5/10 version of the Landowners Rights Fact Sheet in order to provide more effective notice to the farmers and home owners along power lines and pipelines. The address is Dr. Burl W. Haar, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, 350 Metro Square Building, 121 Seventh Place East, St. Paul, MN 55101, email: burl haar@state. mn.us. Make sure to say that your comment refers to Landowner Rights Notice and that it is for Docket 08-1474. Feel free to add your own thoughts and perspectives as well.

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One Response to Landowners’ Rights, Power Lines and Pipelines

  1. Priscila says:

    The claim of exceeding faedrel regulatory requirements was put out by TransCanada’s Keystone XL, so, someone took their list of 57 improvements for their pipeline to task. It turned out that particular list was mostly just restating of existing rules they would follow!Now, for the 2 standards mentioned above:The new pipeline segments will contain more remotely-operated isolation valves than what is required by faedrel regulations.Richard Kuprewicz has mentioned before this can be an illusion. Some pipelines have used adding remote operated valves on a pipeline above PHMSA rules as justification for routing pipelines in very sensitive to pipeline failure locations. There’s also that matter of shutting down the pipeline quickly if they suspect a leak, again. Note that other pipelines have also failed to respond to alarms suggesting a leak.The new pipeline segments will be internally inspected more frequently than U.S. regulatory requirements, using state of the art in-line inspection technology.The PHMSA Integrity Management program requires pipeline reassessment (retesting) every 7 years. But, it would be crazy on a pipeline that can run Internal Line Inspection (ILI) tools (smart pigs) to wait for the full 7 years. ILI tool technology is constantly improving, so running new generation smart pigs is very wise when they come out to find latent flaws, yahoo with a backhoe can hit a pipeline without rupturing it, but, not report that they damaged it, soil can settle (cracks and distortion of the pipe), and corrosion does not sleep.Then, once there’s an indication of an issue, will pipeline anomalies be checked out quickly? This is one of the big mysteries of the Marshall MI Enbridge failure, for they had hundreds of anomalies detected that were classified in the 18 month required to check out category, but were put of for some reason. I have yet to have an explanation as to why they didn’t check those anomalies.

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