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Negotiating Pipeline Rights-Of-Way in Pennslyvania

By Dave Messersmith
Published by PennState Extension on August 25, 2017

Surging natural gas production in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations have ushered in a wave of pipeline development projects designed to increase takeaway capacity out of the Appalachian basin. As a result, communities throughout the Commonwealth are experiencing an intense level of natural gas pipeline development. As August 2015, approximately 3,000 miles of interstate natural gas pipeline are being proposed in the region, with construction reaching into ten states. Combined, the proposed projects would have the ability to move an additional 16.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day plus 120,000 barrels per day of natural gas liquids out of the Marcellus. Six of the proposed projects would originate in Pennsylvania’s northern Marcellus production area and seven, including two liquids pipelines, would originate in the western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia tri-state area. Most of these projects are expected to be completed and operational by 2017-2018.

What is a Pipeline Right-of-Way?

A pipeline right-of-way is a strip of land over and around natural gas pipelines where some of the property owner’s legal rights have been granted to a pipeline operator. A right-of-way agreement between the pipeline company and the property owner is also called an easement and is usually filed in the county Register and Recorders Office with property deeds. Rights-of-way and easements provide a permanent, limited interest in the land that enables the pipeline company to install, operate, test, inspect, alter, repair, maintain, replace, and protect one or more pipelines within the designated easement. The agreement may vary the rights and widths of the right-of-way, but, generally, the pipeline company’s rights-of-way extend 25 feet from each side of a pipeline unless special conditions exist. These easements can be both permanent and temporary, with temporary easements granting the pipeline company additional space for construction.

Types of Gas Pipelines

Essentially, three major types of pipelines occur along the transportation route: gathering lines, the interstate pipeline, and the distribution system. Gathering lines are small-diameter pipelines (6-20 inches) that move natural gas from the wellhead to a natural gas processing facility or an interconnection with a larger mainline pipeline.

Transmission pipelines are wide-diameter (20-48 inches), long-distance pipelines that transport natural gas from producing areas to market areas. Interstate pipelines carry natural gas across state boundaries–in some cases, clear across the country.

Intrastate natural gas pipelines operate within state borders and link natural gas producers to local markets and the interstate pipeline network. Although an intrastate pipeline system is defined as one that operates totally within a state, an intrastate pipeline company may have operations in more than one state. As long as these operations are separate–that is, they do not physically interconnect–they are considered intrastate and are not jurisdictional to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).


To view the full article, and others by Dave Messersmith, visit the PennState Extension website.

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