Houston pipeline operator Kinder Morgan has been ordered to pay another $2.7 million in a widening eminent domain dispute out in the Texas Hill Country.
A three-member panel of the Blanco County Special Commissioners ordered Kinder Morgan to pay three landowners more than $2.7 million in order to seize parts of their properties for the company's proposed Permian Highway Pipeline.
Kinder Morgan is seeking to build the $2 billion pipeline to move 2.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Permian Basin of West Texas to the Katy Hub near Houston but faces stiff opposition along the proposed route through the picturesque Hill Country.Under state law, landowners and pipeline companies that cannot agree on compensation for land to be seized can file a petition before a state district court. The court appoints a three-member panel of real estate professionals from the county to consider the case and deliver the special commission's award. Those awards, however, can be appealed in court.
The landowners claim that Kinder Morgan was offering less than $21,000 to seize parts of their properties, which they contend would not compensate them for the property value loss as a whole — especially when it comes time to sell their land.
"The commissioners were laser-focused on the facts and circumstances of each case," said Chris Oddo, a condemnation attorney for three of the landowners. "In this case, the commissioners were considering the impact of a large, high-pressured natural gas pipeline cutting through the pristine Texas Hill Country. The substantial consequences of that pipeline are reflected in the award."
Kinder Morgan has maintained that the pipeline route was carefully chosen to impact the fewest number of landowners. The company said it held several public meetings before moving forward with the project.
Under Texas state law, pipelines require a 50-foot easement that must be kept clear. Kinder Morgan designed the proposed pipeline route to include a 600-foot-wide corridor that allows for some flexibility and adjustments.
The company contends the pipeline will generate nearly $1 billion annually to state and county governments and will unlock production bottlenecks in the Permian Basin — allowing leaseholders to earn more than $2 billion in annual royalties.
Kinder Morgan faces similar challenges elsewhere along the Permian Highway Pipeline route in the Hill Country. The Houston-based company intennds to appeal the panel awards in court.
"As we've previously stated, these commissioner awards are the next step in a legal process that will ultimately result in these specific landowners being fairly compensated for easements that will be used for the Permian Highway Pipeline, pursuant to a long-established condemnation process in Texas that Kinder Morgan supports and was recently upheld in the Texas state court system," the company said. "Additionally, over 60 percent of the right-of-way has been acquired for the project without lengthy condemnation proceedings. It is also worth noting that a judicial appellate process exists in order to deal with excessive valuations such as this one."