Landowners join to handle pipeline

How to negotiate for the best interests of landowners along the route of a proposed Sunoco Logistics pipeline was discussed Monday by a landowner group.

About a dozen people met in the garage of Ken Detterman of Bloomville to ask questions and begin making decisions on what the group hopes to achieve by organizing.

The planned pipeline of interest to people at the meeting covers 22 miles through Seneca County from the eastern side of Tiffin through the Bloomville area in a southeasterly direction.

Part of the line would follow an existing easement where a pipeline from the 1940s exists but is no longer used. Another part of it would bypass the existing easement and be rerouted through new area.

In the four-county area where landowners are organizing, there are 160 miles affected through Huron, Richland, Ashland and Wayne counties.

“The main objective is get a new right-of-way lease drawn up and get the 1942 lease abolished,” Detterman said. He showed a copy of the easement agreement his grandfather had signed in 1942 with the Defense Plant.

“It was for a war emergency. He got 50 cents per rod (16.5 feet),” Detterman said. “Of course, the easement was sold.”

Detterman said some landowners already have signed an agreement with the company, but he estimated two-thirds of landowners in the Seneca County portion have shown interest in forming a group to negotiate with the company.

Group members discussed joining with the other three counties to hire one attorney well versed in pipeline law and negotiations to represent the landowners’ interest.

“I would like to see one legal representative for all four counties,” said Al Petrie, a Huron County landowner affected by the pipeline. “I think it’s in our interest to have one viewpoint and one viewpoint only for all the counties.”

Some of those interests might include negotiating for a new easement lease, deciding a fair amount of compensation, assurance that inspectors would be on site watching out for landowner interests and making sure there is money available to pay for future problems that may arise with the pipeline or land it goes through.

Detterman said his main interest is in getting a new easement “so companies aren’t putting another pipeline in every couple years.”

Petrie also was concerned about future problems.

“I want to see $1 million put in escrow to be available for future problems,” he said. Among the problems he foresees are drainage tile and soil compaction.

“It might be 70 years down the road,” he said. “This is for their protection as well as ours.”

Tia Rice, program administrator for Seneca Soil and Water Conservation District, said SWCD will be making sure tile drainage systems are repaired properly after pipeline construction.

“The county commissioners have agreed that, as a condition of the permit, Sunoco has to allow us to be involved,” she said. “Our main concern from a landowner’s standpoint is that all the drainage is reattached and working properly. It’s going to be a learning process for us.”

SWCD technicians plan to GIS the points where drainage tile meet the pipeline.

“We’re going to be diligent in making sure we get all the tile mapped that they’re crossing,” she said. “We can’t guarantee we’ll get them all. But I would hope we get at least 95 percent.”

The map is to be used in documenting tile in case of future problems. Rice suggested dealing with future drainage problems be included in the easement agreement.

“My understanding is that, as they go along, there will be a contractor there to fix the tile,” she said. She understands the company plans to use local tile contractors.

“We just got involved in the process when they were talking about and easement on county property,” Rice said. “We would not be involved, by the county commissioners made it a condition of the permit.”

Rice said state agencies are to handle wetlands mitigation and issues pertaining to woodlands.

“We (SWCD) are not experts when it comes to pipeline specifications,” she said.

Although she works with a county agency, Rice works closely with the local office of the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service.

“Each individual is responsible for making sure they repair it or restore it to original condition,” she said “You are the one liable for that, not the pipeline company. You should make it a condition of the easement.”

Rice said SWCD has no regulatory authority.

“We can only give them the standards and specification,” she said. “But if they’re not willing to work with us, they’re not getting the permits to cross the roads in Seneca County.”

She suggested landowners pay attention to the permitting process through the Ohio Power Siting Board.

According to Sunoco Logistics literature passed around at the meeting for people to look at, the project is part of Sunoco’s Mariner West & Allegheny Access pipeline projects, which are being expanded to move energy products between the Midwest and Eastern United States.

The literature said the pipeline would have the capacity to carry 85,000 barrels per day of refined oil products.