Natural gas pipelines, along with other utility infrastructure such as water and sewer lines, require long expanses of property in order for the lines to be installed. Placing pipelines on private and public property is often necessary and is a safe way to build and maintain a pipeline. An easement is the legal agreement that gives us the right to use specific portions of land for certain purposes. For many people, their first experience with an easement occurs when a public utility requires use of the owner’s property. Hopefully, the following will help answer some of the most common questions about easements.
Good Faith Negotiation
When easements are needed, a Duke Energy representative will contact property owners directly to discuss terms for acquiring access through their land. When terms of the easement agreement are reached, a legal document is drawn up and signed by the owners. The easement is then recorded in the county recorder’s office. Once an easement is granted, the property owner will maintain ownership of the property, subject to the easement rights granted to Duke Energy.
Payment for these easements is negotiated between Duke Energy and property owners at fair market values, depending on the size and location of the easement. Duke Energy studies recent sales and values of comparable properties within a reasonable distance of the proposed pipeline to get an idea of the market value of the land. The price of an easement will be less than the market value because we will not be buying the property outright, only the right to use it for a specific purpose.
We will make every effort to explain figures fully and completely and will negotiate in good faith. The actual amount of compensation paid will be based on the specific conditions affecting the value of the property where the easement area is located. This may cause easement pricing to vary between landowners.
During and After Construction
Landowners should expect the property to be disrupted temporarily during construction of the pipeline. A Duke Energy representative will contact property owners where easements are needed and work with these owners to identify any special concerns, such as replacing fences, trees or other features. The pipeline installation work will be performed within the easement area or public right of way. Please note there will be temporary road disruptions during the construction and installation of the pipeline.
Any property disturbed by construction will be restored, as nearly as is practical, to its preconstruction condition. All of this will be discussed in easement negotiations between property owners and Duke Energy.
After the pipeline has been constructed, owners can use their property as before, with a few exceptions. We will need to review any construction plans prior to installation of roadways and sidewalks. Other large permanent structures such as homes, garages and swimming pools are not allowed because we need to maintain safe access to this area for any future pipeline work.
After the pipeline is installed, we may need to access the easement area periodically for inspections and maintenance. We would be responsible for repairing any damage for which Duke Energy is responsible under the requirements of the easement agreement. We will reserve the right to repair or replace the pipeline in the future if necessary.
To determine whether your property has an existing easement, check the deed to your house and look at the records at the county courthouse. The sale of a property usually includes a title search, which may reveal easements on your property.