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The Wording of Some Bills Are Being Changed, But The Effectiveness Doesn’t Seem to Change

December 7, 2011

Certificate of Public Convenience, (Under Federal Eminent Domain Law) Is a polite way of saying that a gas company can take the land that is needed for their operation, if you say no or can’t agree on the price of your land they want to us. To be fair under eminent domain they must offer you market value for your property. However, once they have the property condemned that value isn‘t anywhere near a fair market value.

Below are a few ways that they can do just what I mentioned above to get the land. The first is a bill that will be voted on hopefully soon, but let’s hope that bringing attention to the wording will get it changed.

Here in Pennsylvania a bill that is supposed to stop the Natural Gas companies from taking your land for their gas lines was just voted out of committee and will be heading to the floor for a full vote. The bill is House Bill 1926 P.N. 2617. This is all well and good except there is a part that still scares me, (Sec.2 lines 12 through 20.) This allows a company to file for Certificate of Public Convenience through the court or another way they can go is to decide to go under the Natural Gas Act.

Below is a section taken out of the Natural Gas Act.


Condemnation Issues Under the Natural Gas Act

When any holder of a certificate of public convenience and necessity cannot acquire by contract, or is unable to agree with the owner of property to the compensation to be paid for, the necessary right-of-way to construct, operate, and maintain a pipeline or pipelines for the transportation of natural gas, and the necessary land or other property, in addition to right-of-way, for the location of compressor stations, pressure apparatus, or other stations or equipment necessary for the proper operation of such pipeline or pipelines, it may acquire the same by the exercise of the right of eminent domain in the district court of the United States for the district in which such property may be located, or in the State courts. The practice or procedure in any action or proceeding for that purpose in the district court of the United States shall confirm as nearly as may be with the practice and procedure in similar action or proceeding in the courts of the state where the property is situated: Provided, that the United States district courts shall have jurisdiction of cases when the amount claimed by the owner of the property to be condemned exceeds $3,000.

This is how the PA HB 1926 reads from line 11 to line 20.

Section 2. Section 1104 of Title 66 is amended to read:

12 § 1104. Certain appropriations by right of eminent domain

13 prohibited and eligibility for certificate.

14 (a) Prohibition.–Unless its power of eminent domain existed

15 under prior law, no domestic public utility or foreign public

16 utility authorized to do business in this Commonwealth shall

17 exercise any power of eminent domain within this Commonwealth

18 until it shall have received the certificate of public

19 convenience required by section 1101 (relating to organization

20 of public utilities and beginning of service).

So even though the bill changes some wording, they still have a shot at condemning the property they need by going around any laws put in their way. Below is a story on how the gas companies go after what they want at any cost to the tax payers.


{Note; Sally Vaughn is the Bradford County <a href=prothonotary>Protonotary.}

Vaughn said she was motivated to attend the commissioners’ meeting on Thursday after a company in the natural gas industry filed 30 proposed condemnations of properties with her office that same morning.
She estimated it would take one of her staff two weeks to take care the filing of the 30 proposed condemnations.

“I don’t think we’ve ever received 30 condemnations all at once,” she said.
Vaughn said she had not had a chance to review the condemnations in-depth, but said they probably involve a gas-related company seeking to acquire the right-of-ways for the installation of pipelines. Bradford County Commissioner-elect Daryl Miller said the condemnations involve acquiring rights-of-way for the installation of interstate gas transmission lines, since gas companies cannot obtain rights of ways by eminent domain for gas gathering lines.

It appeared that most, if not all, of the proposed condemnations were filed by Central New York Oil & Gas, Vaughn said.

The condemnation process for pipeline rights of way starts when the landowner refuses to accept the gas company’s monetary offer for the right of way, Vaughn said. As part of the condemnation process, the gas company is required to set aside an amount that it will use to acquire the right-of-way, and Vaughn said she will now have to open and maintain 30 different bank accounts containing those funds, which will also take up her time.

This is being done for the most part using The Natural Gas Act 2010. I have trying to find the new bill that is to be voted on by the federal legislative branches and is said that it will pass with ease, but I can’t find it as now. However, we couldn’t find a copy of the Healthcare Bill until weeks before the vote either.


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