Pipelines are usually built across private lands after the pipeline company obtains an easement from the landowner. Although the monetary compensation is certainly an important factor for a landowner to consider, the nonmonetary terms of the easement may be, in some cases, more important and more valuable. It is critical to include in the written easement agreement any statement or promise made by the company or it likely will not be enforceable.
The following list is an excerpt of a longer one from agrilife.org/texasaglaw. These terms may also be helpful in negotiating other easements, such as those for electric or transmission lines, water, wastewater, drainage, or related infrastructure easements.
Remember, this isn’t an exhaustive list, and any landowner negotiating an easement agreement should hire an attorney to represent his or her interests.
See that the easement is specific, not blanket. Easement agreements often state that a pipeline will be laid “over and across” the landowner’s property. This is a blanket easement that allows the company to place the line anywhere on the property, even if the company verbally promised to place the line in a certain location. To avoid this issue, define a specific easement area and have the company survey it and any temporary work areas. Make that survey an exhibit (documented evidence) to the easement. Also consider requiring a specific setback distance from any buildings or structures if this is a potential issue.
Grant a nonexclusive easement. Reserve the right to grant additional easements to other parties within the easement area. For example, if another pipeline company wants to place a line on the property, the landowner may want the right to have the line placed within the same easement, rather than having two separate easements across the property.
Check restrictive covenants. The easement may be planned for property that is subject to restrictive covenants, which might specify the required location and depth of any pipelines.
Reserve surface use. Retain the right to use as much of the easement area as necessary. For example, once an underground pipeline is in place, the landowner may want to graze his cows on the property, including the surface above the pipeline. Similar consideration applies to the landowner’s ability to place roadways, ponds or tanks, and water lines across the easement.
Set specific restoration standards. To ensure the easement area is properly restored, state in detail the company’s responsibility for things like reseeding grass, replacing topsoil, and remedying any changes to slope. Consider setting objectively measurable standards or appointing a neutral third party to determine if restoration is adequate.
Find additional resources about pipeline easements, including a podcast, at agrilife.org/texasaglaw or email Tiffany.