Landowners in Penn Township, Pennsylvania, were recently surprised to find that old right-of-way agreements can give a gas company the legal right clear trees and other vegetation in order to replace a natural gas pipeline that is 61 years old. Many of the landowners were not even aware of the right-of-way agreements. Like many real estate disputes, easements and rights-of-way are often controlled by recorded legal documents that impose legal rights on the title to property.
Ten families who live in the area on lots previously subdivided from a larger farm were surprised to see the gas company’s work crews and construction vehicles start to work on their land. In one instance, a landowner actually had a growing oat crop that would be destroyed in part by the pipeline construction. He has to quickly harvest his oats before his crop was ruined.
The right of way path is approximately 60 feet wide, although evidently only 50 feet of it was in use previously. The gas company says the old pipeline must be replaced for safety reasons, and that a number of similar pipelines are also being replaced in the area. Some of the pipelines at issue are old enough to have been first installed during the World War 1 era.
Another company, Sunoco Logistics, is in the planning stage of building a propane and ethane pipeline, and is trying to acquire right-of-way access to some land in Penn Township using eminent domain. Landowners might be able to intervene in the case to assert objections or to challenge the adequacy of compensation offered for the rights.
When someone purchases land, it is a good idea to have an experienced real estate attorney carefully examine the title in order to be fully aware of any easements and rights-of-ways that have an impact on the property.
TribLive, “Penn Township landowners bound y old right-of-way agreements” Chris Foreman, Aug. 21, 2013