PIPELINE LANDOWNERS: Questions and Answers
QUESTION: Do government and regulators conspire against landowners?
ANSWER: Conspire would be way too strong a word, but it is true that when government and regulators think of the energy industry, rarely do they think of landowners or landowner interests. At meetings and planning strategies where major regulatory reforms are undertaken or discussed, rarely are landowners given the same opportunities to participate as industry and industry representatives.
"I never get tired of telling landowners affected by powerline or pipeline projects about the advantages of working together through a skilled landowner association like Grassroots Alberta.
In my 50+ years of farming, I've been involved in few things that have even come close to the learning experience, and financial benefit, that I received from working with my neighbours to have a joint agreement negotiated and worked out beforehand."
- Carl B., Consort, Alberta
There is difficulty obtaining reasoned and unbiased commentary about Agenda 21 and its impact, because so many individuals and groups associated with either side of the issue respond in knee-jerk fashion, or otherwise present their opinion in a manner that fails to enlighten people.
One of the better and more reasoned explanations of Agenda 21 was made by John Anthony. Anthony is president of Corporate Measures. Its purpose is to train company leaders with communication and leadership skills.
Anthony’s explanation has a distinctively U.S. flavour, because he is an American and is speaking to an American audience. Nevertheless, the United States is only one of more than 178 governments that signed on to support Agenda 21.
“Agenda 21 is a 350-page plan of action to be taken locally, nationally, and globally by countries of the United Nations and by organizations connected to the United Nations."
Do Markets Have Hearts? No... But They Are Moral and Here's Why...
Mark Schug is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He taught for over 36 years and served as Senior Fellow with the National Council on Economic Education. He also works as a national consultant on economic and financial education as well as education policy.
QUESTION: How does a pipeline project affect long-term property values, and can this be addressed?
ANSWER: An issue that individual landowners and landowner groups have not yet been successful at satisfactorily addressing has to do with land values 30 and 40 years from now, when a landowner’s children or grandchildren might be in charge. Years down the road, the impact an active or abandoned pipeline might have on development options for a piece of property could be intense, and extremely costly. Yet this imposition on the landowner and his or her family has never been properly addressed.
This is patently unfair for the landowner, and explains why at Grassroots Alberta, we believe every pipeline agreement should carry a continuing obligation on the part of the pipeline company to ensure the landowner is made whole, not just this year, but on into the future. Pipelines should come with an annual payment that is renegotiable, the same way agreements for oil and gas wells are updated and renegotiated on a regular cycle. Some people suggest there should be a renewal lease, and that the pipeline company should lease the easement from the landowner.
QUESTION: Is it true that there are landowners who have joined in with other landowners, and/or landowner associations to negotiate easement agreements, who in the end received multiple times the amount of compensation that was originally offered?
ANSWER: Yes, however, these kinds of multiplication factors are not the norm, and should not be assumed by a landowner. If a pipeline company is responsible and treats landowners with respect, it is common to hear about tweaks or adjustments to offers, especially when certain site-specific issues are addressed, but not the dramatic adjustments that are seen when a pipeline company has early on sought to take advantage. Additionally, different regulatory jurisdictions use different mechanisms for resolving disputes.
QUESTION: Does Grassroots Alberta actually negotiate and then finalize an easement agreement for landowner members?
ANSWER: No. A representative of Grassroots Alberta who has worked as a licensed land agent will be part of the negotiating committee chosen by local landowners affected by the project. However, the local negotiating committee will consist of four to six people, selected from the affected landowner group. The negotiating committee will consult with legal counsel as they talk through the issues with the pipeline company and/or its representatives. Site-specific issues will also be addressed.
When the negotiating committee, supported by advice from legal counsel, believes the most attractive settlement possible has been achieved, that tentative settlement will be brought back to landowners who are involved in the project. At that time, legal counsel will go over the terms of the proposal, line by line, answering any questions. Affected landowners, who earlier committed themselves to this type of negotiating process by signing an authorization and commitment form, will then vote on the proposed package and decide if they want to accept the tentative agreement, or have the committee go back to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: How is it that landowners can establish the leverage they need in order to genuinely address legitimate landowner concerns?
ANSWER: Some elements of this are difficult. One way for landowners to gain some leverage is for numbers of landowners to stick together, insisting that the pipeline company genuinely address legitimate concerns and issues. To be sure, compensation is a factor and needs to be negotiated, which the negotiating committee addresses, yet there are deeper and more far-reaching issues that landowners can only succeed in drawing attention to if they stick together, insisting that they want the matters addressed.
This is another role the local negotiating committee can address on behalf of affected landowners by consistently bringing the attention of the company toward those things that matter most to landowners.