Pipeline legal cases find economic damages
To the Editor:
I am writing to object to the your statement in a recent Cabinet editorial implying that property value impacts of the Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas Company NED pipeline in New Hampshire will be minimal. While it is true that Kinder Morgan funded a study that came to the same conclusion, it’s clear to me that this was based on cherry-picked data to disprove the common sense conclusion to the contrary.
For starters, nobody in their right mind would buy a property with construction easements restricting its development for a period of two years and in NH, there are many families that would not buy residential property with a 36-inch, extremely high pressure natural gas pipeline running through it for safety reasons. And if the residential property was taken by eminent domain and the owner wanted to move out for the same reasons, they would have a hard time getting a fair market price for the property during construction or after the pipeline has been installed.
On Sept. 9. 2014, when the original NED pipeline was proposed to transverse northern Massachusetts to Dracut, a letter from a law firm in Massachusetts was sent to the chairman of the Board of Selectman in Groton titled “RE: Tennessee Gas Pipeline”. This law firm specializes in legal conflicts between pipeline companies and property owners with pipeline easements. It is a letter strongly objecting to a statement by a Groton assessor that when Tennessee Gas Company makes their takings there will be no impact on real estate values where easements have been recorded. The letter states that all of the communities that may be impacted by gas company takings should be concerned.
Attached to this letter were the results of a Massachusetts Federal Justice’s ruling and Federal Appeals Court that upheld the ruling. The ruling indicated that these types of pipeline takings do inflict damages to real estate. The case decision holds that damages occur both directly and as a consequence of having a gas pipeline on the property and awarded $152,677 plus interest to the property owner.
The letter goes on to state that significant damages occur not only because of numerous restrictions that come with recorded easements but also with the gas company’s unrecorded construction requirements that most property owners do not know exist. It predicts that Tennessee Gas Co. will take temporary easements, permanent easements, construction easements. and in rare instances a fee taking and use its in-house construction regulations in court to protect the easements to the detriment of impacted landowners.
It finished with a brief description of another case handled by the law firm where the taking authority was only willing to pay a nominal amount of $400 to the landowner claiming that there was no direct damage nor consequential damage to the remainder property. The jury that heard the case awarded the landowner $100,000. The firm stated that this was just one of many cases that they have handled.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The information to which Mr. Conaway is apparently referring did not appear in an editorial, but in an April 9 story on Milford’s pipeline task force. The salient paragraph said, “Don Jalbert, who represents the town’s (Milford’s) Economic Development Advisory Council on the task force, said pipelines seems to result in little or no change in property valuations.”