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A landowner's view on gas & oil industry

Published: January 3, 2014 12:20 PM
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More than 100 pipelines are currently planned or under construction in Ohio and it’s safe to say that more are on the way.  Thus, the number of landowners affected by these projects is growing rapidly, particularly in areas where farmland is prevalent.  

Each landowner we represent—and we only represent landowners, never pipelines—has unique concerns when it comes to a pipeline easement agreement.  Compensation is a major issue, but so is how their land is used, potential future development, and, of course safety.  What is consistent though in each of these cases is that when the landowner has legal representation from an experienced eminent domain attorney, the deal they end up with is almost always far better than the initial offer from the pipeline company.   The following landowners, each of whom we represented, have agreed to share their personal stories in hopes of helping other landowners who may face similar situations.

Preserving A Family Farm

Farming is the Armand family business.  The Armands operate two farms totaling more than 900 acres.  Their properties include The Harper Valley Farm that has been owned and run by the Armand’s since 1941.  In early 2012 a surveyor showed up at Albert Armand’s door.  That’s when he learned that the Enterprise Pipeline would affect both properties.  

“We weren’t happy about the prospect of a pipeline,” Armand explained.  “In the best case scenario we feared it would be a mess for us.”  You see, the Armand’s have a history with pipelines.  Armand remembers when his grandfather negotiated two pipeline easements through the property in the early 1950’s.  They lost a crop and the land was never restored properly.  So this time around the integrity of the property was Albert Armand’s main concern.

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“The dollar value was not out of line,” Armand said.  “But we wanted guarantees that the ground would be as productive after they left and that the work would be environmentally responsible. We also wanted assurances that when they left, we would not have to worry about inadvertently violating any regulations in terms of erosion or pollution.”

“I actually tried for quite some time to work out a deal regarding land quality issues, but the land agent would not cooperate.  The answer was always ‘we can’t do that.  We can’t do this.’  The land agent implied that if I didn’t sign, we would lose in court and get less money than what they were now offering.”

That’s when Armand sought legal representation.  Eminent domain attorneys Michael Braunstein and William Goldman stepped in, collected all the information the Armands could provide, and ultimately negotiated what Armand describes as “a more equitable settlement,” that included five times more money than had been originally offered by the pipeline company.  In addition, Armand is confident that the integrity of his family’s land will now be preserved for future generations.  “It is important for all of us to do whatever we can to look after the quality of the land we grow food on.  I wanted to make sure that when this pipeline project was finished the land was as good as it could be.  Our attorneys worked very hard to make that happen.”

Can That Easement Stand?

Like Albert Armand, Ken Detterman comes from a long line of farmers.  His 110-acre farm has been in his family since 1836, when his great- great-grandfather bought it.  Ironically, Detterman’s grandfather also dealt with a pipeline and signed an easement agreement back in 1942.  Now Sunoco Logistics has a pipeline that is routed across the Detterman land.  And while no product has been pumped through that old line in more than a decade, Sunoco Logistics still claimed the 1942 easement was valid along with the provisions that went with it.  

“My grandfather got a grand total of around $50 for that easement,” Ken Detterman explained.  “I can’t believe any court in the country would uphold that judgment all these years later.”

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Upon learning a number of his neighbors were facing the same situation, Detterman set up a landowners’ meeting and then created a landowners’ group.  The Ohio Farm Bureau referred him to Goldman & Braunstein.  

“The first attorney we met with worked by the hour, so we didn’t know how much it would ultimately cost us,” Detterman explained.  “Goldman & Braunstein work on a contingency fee.  We were more comfortable with that.”

Goldman & Braunstein have hammered out a new easement agreement on behalf of Detterman.  And while the new pipeline will follow the same route as the old one, the compensation is greater than they were initially offered and safeguards are now in place.  “They can only put one line in and we are protected legally if there is ever a leak,” Detterman said.  “This will protect our future and the future of our kids when they inherit the land.”

A Pipeline Set To Run Through A Community Jewel

The Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio: 1,800 acres of beautiful grounds dedicated to increasing the love and knowledge of trees, history and the natural world.  The Arboretum’s mission is to provide exceptional education programs and events, as well as maintain incredible horticulture collections.  When Arboretum executive director Luke Messinger first saw an aerial photo outlining the proposed path of the ATEX pipeline, his first thought was “How can we stop this. “  He feared the impact of the pipeline’s proposed path through the Arboretum would be incredibly detrimental to their daily operations.

Messinger learned quickly that stopping the pipeline wasn’t an option. “I was hopeful however that if we had experienced legal help on our side we could propose an alternative route on our property that would minimize disruption to our operations,” he explained.

Eminent domain attorneys Goldman & Braunstein were retained.  Their first order of business was to tour the Arboretum, taking a close look at the proposed path and alternative routes that Messinger believed would cause less damage to both the natural habitat and the work that is done there daily.  “Their ability to understand the uniqueness of our property and our daily operations was critical in order for them to negotiate in our best interests,“ Messinger explained.  “You can’t just arbitrarily draw a line through this property if you don’t understand its use.”

According to Messinger, the attorneys were able to both “demonstrate and clearly communicate the value of the land.”  ATEX agreed to move the 8,500 feet of pipeline on the Arboretum’s property so research and youth education areas were not impacted.  Messinger believes they would have been had ATEX stuck with its original routing.  

“From the start, our goal was to minimize the pipeline’s impact. The pipeline company was agreeable I think, because Goldman & Braunstein were able to communicate the passion, level of education and love the community has for this property.  It was in the pipeline company’s best interest to work with us.”

Attorneys Michael Braunstein and William Goldman can be reached at 614-229-4512 or toll free at 888-231-2554.  For more information visit www.ohiopipelineresults.com or www.eminentdomainattorneysoh.com.


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