Being in the path of a pipeline can be troubling enough, but tough tactics by the companies installing them can make the situation even more difficult.
With several projects planned to run through Wood County, it's important that landowners know not to rush into anything, regardless of what a company representative or surveyor might say, according to Michael Braunstein, a Columbus attorney who is half of the duo Goldman and Braunstein.
He and his partner have studied eminent domain law for more than 20 years and represented hundreds of clients whose homes or farm land has been targeted in a pipeline route.
Such projects have popped up with increasing frequency the last few years due to shale drilling in other portions of the state, as well as a desire by many to move away from coal-fired plants and shift to natural gas, Braunstein said.
An 800-mile pipeline, ET Rover, would cross through the southern portion of Wood County on its way to Michigan; meanwhile, a much smaller, 22-mile line would transport natural gas from Maumee to Perrysburg before working through communities in the northern part of the county to the Oregon Clean Energy Center power plant, currently under construction.
A little less than seven miles of the second project, known as the Oregon Lateral, would go through Perrysburg Township. About three miles would run through both Perrysburg and Northwood, with smaller portions planned in Rossford, Lake Township and Walbridge before the line reaches Oregon.
Property owners began receiving letters last month, and surveyors have been out looking at land, for which they're required to give 48-hours notice. The project would require a 75-foot construction easement, as well as a 50-foot permanent easement where the pipe would be situated.
While those terms aren't likely to change, residents can negotiate more desirable conditions of the easement by joining together, said Braunstein, who is hosting an informational meeting and no-obligation consultations at 6 tonight at the Holiday Inn French Quarter in Perrysburg.
Braunstein said whether or not they retain his firm, landowners should consult with someone experienced in pipeline matters, as companies won't pull any punches in trying to get a signed agreement.
It's important not to be bullied, and there's strength in numbers, he said, counting the tricks he's heard of from clients after they've spoken with company reps who threaten legal action and play on guilt and naivety. Some will say the other neighbors have agreed and you're holding up the project, even if it isn't true, and will claim they'll be fired if you don't sign on the spot.
"We tell people not to be intimidated by that," Braunstein said. "There are significant protections in Ohio law for the benefit of landowners.
"An emergency on their part is not an emergency on your part."
Often the agreements presented to residents are two or three pages, with terms spelled out to protect the company, but few of any benefit to the person whose land is being used. The same contracts can be a dozen pages or more once Braunstein has padded them with items like insurance requirements and special conditions depending on the owner's situation, he said.
Representing multiple clients in the same project also creates strength, he said, allowing the firm to negotiate better prices and protections.
"It gives us quite a lot of clout in dealing with them.
"We have done a lot of these, and we've learned something new in every one."