Appendix E: Pipelines—Transporting Shale Gas to Markets

What health considerations are there?

Quality of Life – Economic Impacts

Eminent domain is a legal process by which a state, municipality, private person, or corporation can acquire rights to private property for public use. Allowed under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and referenced in most state constitutions, eminent domain is specifically granted for interstate natural gas transmission pipelines under the 1938 Natural Gas Act. Good faith negotiations should precede the exercise of eminent domain, and property owners should receive just compensation.

Other types of pipelines — intrastate, gathering, and distribution — may or may not fall under eminent domain, depending on the constitution of the state involved. States vary significantly in their application of eminent domain to natural gas pipelines, in granting private companies the privilege to use eminent domain, and in what is considered just compensation to property owners. 

In terms of potential benefits to communities, pipeline companies pay taxes to the municipalities in which they operate. A pipeline construction project also generates temporary economic activity for a community and could create a few permanent jobs. In some cases, natural gas may be made available to communities along the pipeline route if they are not presently being serviced by a gas utility company.

Research suggests that real estate values and insurance rates are generally not affected by the presence of a natural gas pipeline on or near the property. 1 Property owners receive financial compensation (or an easement), in the form of an up-front payment per linear foot, with a signing bonus added on occasion; property owners continue to pay taxes on the easement unless they can show cause for tax abatement. If the easement is in an agricultural area, farming can continue to take place, but other activities may be restricted (e.g., cattle grazing may require fencing and arrangements for access by the pipeline operator).

Quality of Life – Psychological Impacts

When communities and property owners first learn about a proposed natural gas pipeline, they often have concerns about the project. Their concerns tend to cluster around issues of land value, eminent domain, and the safety of living near a natural gas line. The company and FERC invite potentially impacted landowners to public meetings for clarification and input on the process. FERC and the operator may take certain environmental or safety concerns raised by community members into consideration (e.g., land subsidence over abandoned mine sites), which can result in the alteration of the proposed route. 2

Quality of Life – Visual Impacts

During construction, the right-of-way for a transmission line may be 75 to 100 feet or more, depending on soil conditions and topography. Trees are cut and vegetation is removed. While grassy vegetation is planted after construction is complete, no trees are permitted for fear of tree roots damaging the pipeline, as well as to allow for aerial inspection of the route. The permanent easement is usually 50 feet wide, which the operator maintains. Above-ground components such as valves may remain visible. 3

Notes:

  1. William N. Kinnard, Jr., Sue Ann Dickey, and Mary Beth Geckler, “Natural Gas Pipeline Impact on Residential Property Values: An Empirical Study of Two Market Areas,” International Right of Way Association (June/July 1994), https://www.irwaonline.org/eweb/upload/0604d.pdf.
  2. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, “An Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline on My Property? What Do I Need to Know?” updated August 2013, http://www.ferc.gov/for-citizens/citizen-guides/citz-guide-gas.pdf.
  3. Pennsylvania State University Extension Agency, “Negotiating Pipeline Rights-of-Way in Pennsylvania,” accessed December 6, 2014, http://extension.psu.edu/natural-resources/natural-gas/publications/negotiating-pipeline-rights-of-way-in-pennsylvania.