Texas pipeline companies sue landowners

Lawsuits over property access reach record high this year

As U.S. oil and gas production swells, landowners in South Texas are resistant to giving up their property to energy companies on a mission to build pipelines. As a result, they’ve face a total of 184 lawsuits this year, as compared to just 28 in 2010.

Under Texas law, companies wishing to build pipelines have the power of eminent domain and can therefore acquire easements even when property owners oppose the acquisition. Property owners can, however, negotiate for compensation. When negotiations sour, energy companies file suit.

The increase in condemnation lawsuits in Texas follows a national trend. For example, condemnation suits in Pennsylvania increased by 45 suits from 2008 to 2009.

However, effective Sept. 1, a new law in Texas will make it more difficult for pipeline companies to condemn land for easements, according to the Wall Street Journal. The new law requires entities with eminent-domain power to make a good-faith offer to landowners before they file a lawsuit. The law also gives property owners more time to respond to companies’ offers.

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