Easement agreements are formal legal agreements granting the pipeline operator long-term use of a right-of-way. A change in ownership of the property does not alter the easement agreement. Because easement agreements are legally binding contracts, landowners should have the contract reviewed by an attorney before signing . Many aspects of a pipeline easement are negotiable. The landowner should consider any contract offered to be a starting point for a two-way negotiation, or it can be fully accepted or rejected by the landowner.
Following is a list of some considerations that should be included in a pipeline agreement or addressed with an addendum:
- Establish the width of the permanent easement and time line for completion of construction.
- Define the nature and width of the temporary construction easement.
- Require identification of any independent and sub-contractors that the pipeline company will use and make the pipeline company responsible and liable for all acts on your property by independent and sub-contractors.
- Require the pipeline company to indemnify (not hold legally liable) the landowner from the acts and omissions of the independent and sub-contractors.
- Define and limit access to both permanent and temporary easements.
- Specify payments for trees, crops, and other plants damaged during the installation of the pipeline.
- Specify re-seeding requirements of easements, such as the types of grasses and other improvements.
- State the amount of time following completion of construction for surface restoration to be completed.
- Identify all stream crossings, state methods of stream crossings, and require restoration of stream crossings after construction.
- Require the landowner be provided an “as constructed” survey of the easement with an official seal by the surveyor within a stated period of time following completion of construction.
- Specify replacement or installation of fencing and gates, stating which gates will have locks and nature of the locks.
- Limit number of keys or number of persons with lock combinations.
- Identify the named person at the pipeline company who will be the landowner’s contact. Require the pipeline company to give 30 days prior notice to landowner of any change in contact person or contact information.
- Define access post-construction to the easement with specific method and location of all access roads and methods.
- Prohibit or limit surface accessories to the pipeline.
- Require minimum depth to top of buried pipeline and require that this minimum depth be maintained at all times.
- Terminate the lease by stated number of days of no use of the pipeline.
- Define “abandonment” of the pipeline as a termination of easement event and require the pipeline company to remove all abandoned pipeline.
- Require prior landowner consent for any assignment of the easement to another party.
- Limit the easement to one pipeline of a stated diameter, with no right to install additional pipelines and no right to increase the diameter of the pipeline.
- Require the same post-construction restoration of surface for pipeline repairs as for original construction.
- Reserve the right to seek surface damages for pipeline repairs as for the initial installation.
- Confirm whether gas to be transported will be scented or unscented.
- Ensure that the permanent and temporary easements are by metes and bounds descriptions and with official surveys – pre-construction and post-construction (as-built survey).
- Choose an alternative dispute resolution method that makes it the cheapest, quickest, and least burdensome way to resolve conflicts between landowner and the pipeline company.
- Consider what surface uses by the landowner will be prohibited, if any, on the easement.
Payments to landowners for granting right of way easements can be quite variable between pipeline operators and from location to location. Most payments involve a set dollar amount per linear foot (or per ‘rod’ which is 16.5 feet). Historically, easement agreements have ranged from less than $5.00 per linear foot to more than $25.00 per linear foot.
There is a post on GMS indicating a current offer of $50 per linear foot.
Some pipeline operators will also offer a ‘signing bonus’ (a fixed dollar amount for signing an easement agreement) in addition to the payment per linear foot. The amount and terms of payments need to be in writing before signing an easement agreement.