Fifteen lawsuits seeking eminent domain over pipeline easements

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CADIZ, Ohio — Kinder Morgan Utopia has filed lawsuits seeking eminent domain against 15 Harrison County landowners.

The lawsuits were filed April 4 against landowners who have declined all Kinder Morgan Utopia offers for pipeline easements across their properties.

Pipeline basics

The Kinder Morgan Utopia pipeline will stretch 240 miles and carry ethane and ethane-propane mixtures from the Utica shale fields in Harrison County, Ohio, to Fulton County, Ohio. From there, it will proceed through Michigan to Ontario.

The 12-inch diameter Utopia East pipeline will have an initial capacity of 50,000 barrels per day (bpd). Ethane is a gas used to make plastics.

Harrison County Common Pleas Judge T. Shawn Hervey has been assigned the lawsuits.

Kinder Morgan Utopia filed the lawsuits after having negotiated for the purchase of the pipeline easements across the landowners’ properties. A final good faith offer was made at the end of February.

Eminent domain

Pipeline companies can file for eminent domain when they meet certain criteria, which includes making good faith offers, carrying petroleum products and providing good for the public.

According to the court documents, most of the landowners were offered as much as 10 times the total appraised value for the easement property.

Kinder Morgan Utopia claims in the lawsuit that the pipeline is necessary and will play a role in developing America’s energy infrastructure system, and will provide temporary, full-time and permanent jobs in Ohio.

More lawsuits possible

The company says it is approaching 40 percent of the total easements acquired in order for the project to move forward in Ohio. However, Allen Fore, vice president of public affairs for Kinder Morgan Utopia, said he expects more lawsuits to be filed in counties along the pipeline path.

The pipeline’s route goes through Carroll, Stark, Tuscarawas, Wayne, Ashland, Huron, Seneca, Wood and Henry counties.

However, Fore hopes Kinder Morgan can resolve the landowners’ concerns without the cases going to trial.

“The goal is to get 95 percent to agree to the easements without any court action,” said Fore.

Fore said landowners with questions or concerns about exactly where the pipeline needs to go through the property can resolve those issues by having an open conversation with them when drafting the easement agreement.

Fore said the company hopes to have its necessary permits in the third or fourth quarter and plan to start construction by early 2017.

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