Eminent Domain and Reeves County landowners

By Thure Cannon | Aug. 11, 2018 7:23 am

Brian McLaughlin’s August 6 piece, “Landowners subsidize pipelines, powerlines,” makes the argument that current eminent domain law is unfair to landowners, yet the actual data shows the opposite.

Since the current eminent domain statute was put into place around seven years ago, the pipeline industry has produced positive outcomes for landowners and the greater Texas economy. That conclusion is supported by data and is hard to dispute. In fact, the majority of Texas pipeline land acquisitions are overwhelmingly successful and result in more than fair compensation to landowners.

To prove this, in 2017, TPA conducted a sampling of 15,000 miles of pipeline that were constructed over the previous six years from almost 35,000 tracts of land. The data shows that the industry filed condemnation proceedings less than four percent of the time, illustrating a 96 percent success rate in negotiating with landowners; less than one percent of the right of way acquired ever went to a special commissioners’ hearing and less than three hundredths of one (0.03) percent ever went to trial. In fact, pipeline operators frequently pay substantially more for easements than the appraised value. We are very proud of that.

It is also important to note that some of these landowners are the beneficiaries of a substantial tax subsidy that Texas law provides to owners of agricultural property (agricultural producers are currently taxed on only a small fraction of the market value of their property.) In consideration of the special tax treatment, it is apparent that owners of agricultural property receive total benefits that exceed those received by owners of property to which no special tax treatment applies. The compensation paid by pipelines to agricultural landowners is far greater than the value upon which those landowners are paying property taxes.

Finally, let’s not forget that in any eminent domain proceeding, the landowner receives the “Landowner Bill of Rights,” written by the Office of the Attorney General, which must be strictly adhered to or the condemnor faces penalties, including paying any landowner’s legal fees.

And, above and beyond these facts, it is patently clear that Texas’ pipeline industry is deeply invested in the communities in which we operate. We are committed to being transparent and to working fairly with Texas landowners with whom we are neighbors and friends. At the same time, we are committed to building the infrastructure that Texas needs to fuel our future and remain the best and safest place to do business and call home.

Pipelines, the main method of transportation for natural gas and fuel in Texas, are a vital cog in the wheel of our daily lives. Expanding energy infrastructure, including pipelines, tanks and terminals, is the best way to increase energy reliability and security and to protect our fuel supply in the event of natural disasters or severe weather.

While we are not opposed to addressing changes that might improve the process for landowners, we feel that proposed changes should result in sound policy and not increased litigation, adding delays to the process and making only the lawyers wealthy.

All Texas consumers benefit from a fair system that provides much needed pipelines, roads, power lines and water lines. That’s why we continue to reach out to the landowner groups, including Texans for Property Rights, to express our desire to work together to identify mutual areas of agreement that would offer a constructive path forward for infrastructure providers and landowners – both of whom make this great state one of the most economically vital in the nation.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// I’d like to see a discussion on the Reeves County Forum about surface rights and experiences of local land owners with compensation for rights of way for pipelines, well drill site pads, electric transmission line rights of way, and county road rights of way maintenance, with any experiences with Eminent Domain rulings with local landowners.

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My two cents are that this op ed piece is lopsided.

First, I am in favor of pipelines, in general. They are the safest, least intrusive, cheapest, and least impactful way to transport product. Can you imagine the number of trucks, highways, truck stops, etc. that would have to be built to transport what is going through underground pipes?

However, there are spots that are special, and should not be scarred by pipelines, and landowners rights have to be protected.

So the problem with the piece is my experience has been that not all pipeline operators act fairly, openly, and reasonably. Some never call in advance, and the notice package is your first word of the line. Some take a my way or the highway approach, with lowball offers, and if they file for condemnation, lower the offers even further. They don’t really look at conditions on the ground before they draw lines on a map and start buying up ROW, which locks them into the route. If you can get with the surveyor and show them your concerns on a route, sometimes a big if, they throw up their hands and say no changes can be made. They pay little mind to already existing lines to make sure you don’t end up with orphaned strips of land. You have to insist they stack the lines in next to each other. They ask for more width than they need, and stick forms in front of uneducated landowners which allow for permanent easements, and allows the addition of unlimited additional lines. They try to use forms which allow them to add fiber cable, electric, etc. for no additional compensation.

The compensation system is also inadequate, as it is difficult to use other easements as comps, and difficult to get compensated for impact on surrounding land.

In short, arguing that just because most landowners end up agreeing to a deal shows it is a fair system is like arguing most people who surrender to the police must be guilty, otherwise they would shoot it out. Landowners agree based on the current state of the law, and it isn’t really that fair.


Thank you Mr. Wade Caldwell. Very well stated.



My father was a surveyor and then civil engineer on a class I railroad and spent a great deal of his time researching court documents, right of way ownership and delineation, and drainage areas.

No landowner wants their land holdings split so that one strip or portion takes an undue effort to access. That said, there has come to be, when railroads ceased operation on the right of way and the original deed promised return of the right of way to the landowner of the land from which the right of way was taken that state and county governments overrode this deed provision, and denied the land owner return and use of their property.

So, do not feel bad for negotiating to get the best deal possible, and do not forget to have a clause inserted which makes the pipeline owner or successor responsible for removal and/or abatement of any damages. The pipeline and equipment even if abandoned in the future do not belong to the landowner and cannot be removed by the landowner. Get a lawyer to negotiate. You are going to be bound by a Right Of Way agreement for decades if not forever.

Good Luck Everyone


Congratulations, Wade on a well thought out opinion/reply. Mr. Wood…I would agree with you too, but I have an agreement with the operator of the Saltwater Disposal Well on my property…they indemnify me against any loss due to their operation on my property and pay me a monthly royalty on the GROSS REVENUES of the disposal operation. But, should they cease operations, I have the right of first purchase of the well and equipment and I DO own the pipelines (or the portions of the pipelines on my property) in the case the operation ceases…otherwise they are required to plug and abandon the well and remove all equipment from my property, restoring it to its previous condition at their expense.
IF they opt to let me buy the equipment for salvage prices, then I can sell the equipment for salvage.

A good oil and gas right of way lawyer should be able to put such clauses into the lease agreement to give the land (surface and mineral) owner options for producing revenue from sales of his/her part of the facility when it ceases operation or becomes economically unfeasible to continue operations.


I couldn’t agree more, Wade.

hi,lawrence,i recently recived and offer too run , 6.2 rods acros my land. filled out and had noatorized said paper work. we agreed on an offer. Then i received a letter with the check and a duplicate of check , which they wanted me too sign along with another a greement that releases them of all resposabity of all damages caused by them oryx delaware oil transport, agents,contactors,sub-contractors from all claims, demands, cauases of action of damages, etc etc this receipt shall be deemed to be a complete discharege , release and satisfaction of all claims of every nature and kind whatsover, know or unknown and includes , but not limited to crops, timber ,surface and grass as well as incoveniece too racnhing and or farming operations. I REFUSEd too sign it and sent it back notarized, saying we allready had an agreement, which they were suppoed too take before and after photos, i can make sure they stuck to original agreement…ti am sorry for the miss spellings as i had shoulder surgery and only have use of one arm… thank you billy sweeney

Stick to your guns, Billy. NEVER sign a waiver absolving any oil and gas or water transport company… even electric transmission line Rights of Way of any responsibility for damages of ANY sort on your land.

Good fortune to Billy Sweeney and all other surface land and mineral owners.