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Forensic Appraisal Group, Ltd.
Gas Transmission Pipelines Q&A 

How much does a natural gas transmission pipeline affect my "fear risk" and property valuation?

The effect of the pipeline easement is measured by the market.  Depending on the size of the pipeline, size of the easement, how it is located on the property, the size of the property, property use, etc., the impact range could be nominal to substantial.  To put this in numbers, it could be as little as 50% of the easement land value, or up to 30% or more of the whole property value.  The more intrusive the easement on the land (ex. - runs diagonal across the whole property vs. just down the fence line), the more impact it will have. 


Will I be able to resell my property for as much or more than I paid for it?

Assuming you purchased the property at market value with consideration for the pipeline, then “yes,” you will be able to resell it for what you paid, assuming overall market conditions do not diminish.  Logic would dictate that you will not sell it for more.  There is no upside to having a pipeline easement on a property.


After I buy a property with a gas pipeline on it, would I be able to get a tax abatement from the town for loss of use restrictions?

Abatement, or discount on the land taxes, should reflect the price you paid for the property – which would be the best comparable sale.  If you paid $300,000 for a property with the pipeline easement, do not try to argue that the pipeline diminished the price by 10%.  This won’t be acceptable since what you paid has already taken into account any loss of value due to the pipeline.


I am considering buying a property with a pipeline, but I want to know how can a pipeline be permitted by eminent domain without just compensation to the landowner?

Just compensation took place at the time the easement was negotiated.  It is not a continuum requiring the repurchase of the easement with each succeeding landowner.  However, some states allow just compensation to be in the form of an annual royalty payment instead of a onetime purchase, and this royalty goes with the land.


Why is it that the landowner pays the real estate taxes, and the pipeline has free underground access?

The landowner pays taxes on real property value. If the easement shows a loss of value, it should be reflected in the overall land value.  If you paid less at the time of purchase than a comparable property without a pipeline easement, then that price can be used to lower your tax assessment.  If it has been a while since you purchased the property, or the easement was placed on your property after your purchase, then you can use comparable sales as proof, or you can use the information and studies on this website as proof to a lower value.


Why wouldn't the seller disclose the presence of a pipeline easement since it is quite obvious to the naked eye?

Some states do not require disclosure.  However, in states where they have to disclose, failure to do so can be a cause of legal action if it results in harm.  Why not disclose?  Many reasons.  One could be the potential harm to the sale of the property.  Another would be that “the pipeline is obvious” and the seller did not see the need.  However, if disclosure is mandatory, then they must disclose, regardless of the obvious nature of the easement.  


In the event that the buyer wants to make improvements to the betterment of the real estate, the buyer is required to contact the pipeline company for compliance as any digging has to be observed / monitored by the pipeline company as well as being on site while the work is being done, right?

Depending on how the easement reads, typically the landowner only needs permission from the easement holder on issues involving only the easement area, not the area outside of it.  Any improvements outside of the easement would not need permission; improvements in and across the easement would.  Typically, easements read that any soil contour change of 6” or more needs permission.  If the improvements are subterranean, then you must stay 18” away from the pipeline and hand dig within 5ft of the pipeline, all with pipeline supervisory control.  Typically, no structures, water retention ponds, pools or septic systems are permitted within the easement area.


Would the seller have to carry extra additional property insurance coverage in the event of a catastrophe or for the stipulation in having a home in the easement zone? 

Check with your insurance agent on this question.


Does the pipeline give off any harmful gases such as radon or other emissions that are potentially cancerous over long term exposure?

If there’s a leak, natural gas can asphyxiate you within minutes.  Health reports state that breathing such gas is harmful to your health, especially on a prolonged exposure basis.  I do not have any knowledge regarding other gases such as Radon.


Is the soil/underground water affected in any way from any type of contamination from the pipeline?

Typically the only way the ground water could be impacted, other than disruption of natural flow due to the physical pipe itself, would be a leak.  I am not certain if a gas leak of this kind would actually be held in the water molecules or be dispersed to the air.  


How far is the pipeline in depth/feet beneath the surface of the top soil? 

The standard depth is 3ft.  In soils with a hard rock substrate, 2ft is minimum.  Typical agricultural land prefers 4ft or more.

What is the typical pipeline diameter?  

They vary widely.  The typical diameter of a gas transmission pipeline would range from 6” to 42”.  For the specific measurements of the pipeline on your property, review the easement document or call the pipeline’s company.


What material is the pipeline constructed of?   

Pipelines are typically constructed of steel with a coating on the exterior to prevent rust and adverse reaction with the surrounding soils.  Contact the gas company for the details about the pipeline in your easement.


What type of gas is transported through the pipeline? 

One is liquid gas, and it is compressed and cooled to a liquid state.  Natural gas is the gas state of the substance which is undetectable by smell, sight or feel.  Sometimes, natural gas has an odorant added to make a leak detectable, but it’s rarely added to gas in transmission lines.  The gas is transported under high pressure.  The pressure rating and odorant information can be requested from the gas company.


Are the pipelines generally susceptible to natural disasters such as tornadoes and earthquakes?

Any natural disaster that would move the underground pipeline, causing it to bend or fracture, could be harmful. 


What, beyond the "fear factor" alone, would keep any potential buyer from considering any property in which a natural pipeline runs through it?

Inconvenience, restrictions on use, unsightly paths cut through wooded areas, and future potential stigma are several that come to mind.


Are there potential risks to one's health, mentally and psychologically?

This is better answered by psychological health professionals.  I assume fear would be an issue with some.


Have there been any legal cases where legation was sought against the pipeline company or any impeding disputed easement rights against owners of real estate?

Yes, many.


Generally speaking, are underground pipelines safe and pose a relatively low risk to the health and safety of the public at large if proper safeguards and monitoring are in place?

That depends on what you’re using as a comparison.  Are they safe compared to transporting the gas with trucks and trains?  Yes.  However, they still pose a danger.  Any break or explosion would be catastrophic in comparison since the cutoff values typically are miles apart, hence the volume of gas being exposed is much greater than any other means of transportation.   Remember, the US DOT Pipeline Safety rules requires a gas company to report an accident only if there is a loss of life, severe injury to a person, or $50,000 of property damage.  And these accidents are “self” reported.  There is evidence of leaks going unreported and off the radar to the public exposure due to these reporting guidelines.  

Proper safeguards are another question.  These are basically within the control of the pipeline companies, which do have an interest to keep their pipes safe.  However, there is no independent source keeping watch, investigating or inspecting these pipelines.  Additionally, considering terrorism, these pipelines are huge unprotected targets.


How do I get in contact with the gas company that has the pipeline? 

The easiest way is to find a marker post (it’s bright yellow, usually by the roadsides) and get the contact name and number off the post sign.  Do not call the emergency number.  Instead, call the non-emergency number, ask the operator for the information you request, and they will assist you.  Remember, due to the terrorism threat, your request may be vetted to see who you really are and what your intentions are.

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