Correction: The Wilsons are being represented by the law firm, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP in Columbus. Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC is being represented by Lawyers Incorporating Service, Statutory Agent, in Columbus, Ohio.
BUTLER, Ohio — A class action lawsuit has been filed against Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC, in the U.S. District Court, Southern District, by three sets of landowners and a business on behalf of all landowners in Ohio who are in a similar position.
Paul Gary Wilson and his wife, Judy Wilson, who own 151 acres; Charles D. Wilson and Carleen Wilson, 70 acres; Shawn P. Wilson and Katherine Wilson, 13.9 acres; and Geopetro LLC., 2,600 acres; filed the lawsuit Dec. 21.
The landowners in this lawsuit do not have a lease signed with Columbia Gas. However, the landowners’ properties are being used by Columbia Gas Transmission as part of an underground storage facility.
John Keller, attorney for the plaintiffs said the case is not about challenging the need for underground storage facilities. The lawsuit is just asking for fair compensation for the landowners.
He added that this is a case about property rights and has nothing to do with shale development.
The lawsuit claims the landowners are not being compensated for the use of the storage space under their property, and that the land is being used without their permission.
The lawsuit also claims that by Columbia Gas Transmission storing gas under their properties, they are violating the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the “takings clause,” by not compensating the landowners for the use of the land.
According to the lawsuit, the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides in part, “…nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”
The landowners also claim that they have the lost the right to develop and produce the gas and minerals that exist under the property.
Another issue raised in the lawsuit is the secrecy regarding the exact boundaries of the storage field that encompasses the landowners’ property.
The landowners claim there is no documentation available to them as to where the boundaries are and whether or not their property is being used as part of the underground storage. However, they have been told by Columbia Gas Transmission that they are part of the underground storage field.
What they are seeking
The landowners are seeking compensation or the completion of eminent domain proceedings by Columbia Gas Transmission. They are also seeking the right to use their properties, including their mineral rights free of Columbia’s interference and intrusion.
The lawsuit is also seeking a permanent injunction to prevent Columbia Gas from using the landowners’ property for storing natural gas or from taking native natural gas unless Columbia enters into an agreement. In addition, the landowners are seeking punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.
Attempts were made by Farm and Dairy to obtain comment from Columbia Gas Transmission and its law farm, as well as its parent company, NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage, headquartered in Houston.