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Five questions to ask when approached about pipeline construction
By Amy Beth Graves
Pipeline construction is ramping up across the state, with an estimated 38,000 miles in the works. Some pipelines are new and others are upgrades. The type of material being transported ranges from natural gas to crude oil to refined fuels.
While the construction impacts all parts of Ohio, the busiest areas right now are northeastern, north central and western Ohio with landowners and county leaders asking lots of questions, said Dale Arnold, Ohio Farm Bureauís director of energy policy.
He recommends getting as much information as possible about the pipeline that will cut across your property and says an attorney should review documents that require a signature.
Here are five questions to ask if approached by a pipeline or utility representative:
1. What type of pipeline is being installed and what material will it contain? Interstate is the largest system of transportation pipelines governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); intrastate pipelines are governed by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB); collection systems are a network of pipelines used to collect natural gas and natural gas liquids from a well to a central collection point and are governed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Many local utilities are engaged in pipeline upgrades known as Infrastructure Renewal Projects (IRPs); these projects are governed by the PUCO.
2. Who has jurisdiction over the pipeline: FERC, PUCO, OPSB or ODNR? Itís important to know what agency to go to if a problem comes up or if you need more information. For example if a state agency has jurisdiction, you can ask for the case or docket number to look up details of the project such as maps, permits, purpose of the project and future public meetings.
3. Is eminent domain involved? If FERC or PUCO are involved, odds are that eminent domain will apply but that only allows right of access -- everything else is negotiable. Landowners are responsible for creating effective easements that focus on fair compensation that reflects the projectís long-term impact on property, repair of fences and tile lines, as well as payment for crop damage. If eminent domain does not apply, which is usually the case with projects developed by private companies, everything is negotiable including access.
4. When will the environmental survey be done? Regardless of the type of pipeline, companies are entitled to an initial environmental survey but anything beyond that, including follow-up visits, requires landowner approval. Arnold recommends you be there when the survey is conducted, ask to see a map of the proposed route and describe all attributes of the property, including conservation practices, tile locations, stream crossings, underground infrastructure and historical sites such as Indian burial grounds or Civil War encampments.
5. Ask to look over all paperwork and be aware thereís no time limit for review. Be sure to have an attorney who specializes in pipeline or landowner issues review the paperwork and donít sign anything until all questions have been answered. Stay current with the issue by networking with neighbors and going to public meetings.
If you have specific questions contact Arnold at email@example.com or 614-246-8294.
Also, Arnold held an online meeting about pipeline issues. You can request a recording of that meeting.
Amy Beth Graves is a communications specialist at Ohio Farm Bureau.