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Know Your Rights Regarding CO2 Pipeline
Letter to the Editor that appeared in Knox County's The Weekly Post (page 5)
February 17,  2022

Having received a landowner packet in December 2021 from an agent acting on behalf of the Navigator Heartland Greenway Pipeline project, I have been following the project’s progress in Iowa and Illinois with intense interest.

I am the fourth generation to live on a farm that has been in my family for over 105 years.  The farm grows corn and soybeans.  My wife has horses in the pasture.  We're located three miles northwest of Williamsfield, in Knox County, Illinois, on the northern edge of the Spoon River Valley (or "bottom," as it's known locally).  Our ground, which the Heartland Greenway Pipeline wants to use as its right of way, is classified as highly erodible.  Like my grandfather and mother before me, I am a Farm Bureau member.

The company proposes to dig a trench seven feet deep, and 15 feet wide, down a slope that drops 100 feet in less than 300 yards, through multiple terraces, drain tile, a grass waterway containing two parallel tiles, and, finally, a riser and tile at the edge of one of our fields.  Ironically, because it's highly erodible, we're restricted by regulation from using certain types of tillage equipment on the same ground the pipeline company wants to dig up.

By way of background, I am a retired U.S. Marine Corps judge advocate, a member of the State Bar of Texas, and a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.  Caveat: I am not licensed in Illinois.

What follows is my advice to landowners potentially impacted by the proposed Navigator Heartland Greenway Pipeline.  If you have been contacted by the pipeline company, indicating it is considering constructing a liquid CO2 pipeline across your land, read the following:

1.  Unless the pipeline company gets eminent domain authority from the Illinois Commerce Commission, you do not have to let it or its employees on your property.  If you see unauthorized persons on your land, I recommend calling your local police or sheriff, and reporting the unauthorized persons as trespassers.  Consider taking photos, getting license numbers, times, dates, etc.

2.  I recommend not making any verbal or written agreements with the Heartland Greenway Pipeline company or its agents without first talking to an Illinois lawyer experienced in dealing with pipeline and utility easements.  Even signing what you think is a harmless survey permission form can have lasting adverse consequences.  Information you give the CO2 pipeline company now may be used against you later.  Consider a CO2 pipeline easement on your property as permanent.  Consider the adverse impact on your land permanent as well.

3.  Do not be intimidated by the Heartland Greenway Pipeline company, its employees, or agents.  It’s your land, not theirs.  If you feel pressured, I recommend refusing to talk to them and calling your lawyer--immediately.

4.  Do not be fooled by talk about large payments for CO2 pipeline easements, crop loss, or construction damage.  Compensation to a landowner is only for the rights acquired by the pipeline company and is not equal to the full value of the land.  Because crops can still be grown over a pipeline easement, the value of a permanent CO2 pipeline easement on farm ground may be as low as 25% of the land's per acre value.  And remember: you won't be paid for the whole field--just the total acreage encompassed by the easement.  Keep in mind: payment for a few years of crop loss may not offset the permanent damage to your land.  Payment for construction-related damage to fences, tile, and erosion control systems may not put them back in the same condition they were in before the pipeline damaged them.  Bottom line: payment for a CO2 pipeline easement will likely not make you rich; other compensation from the pipeline company may not fully restore your land to its pre-pipeline condition.

5.  You are not alone.  Landowners throughout the 13 Illinois counties targeted by the proposed Heartland Greenway Pipeline are mobilizing to fight it.  I recently met with a group composed of concerned citizens and landowners that is getting ready to send information to some 600 Illinois landowners who received information packages from the Heartland Greenway Pipeline company.  Talk to your friends and neighbors, government officials, and news outlets.  Consider joining the resistance effort.  Consider supporting the resistance effort in Iowa.

As previously indicated, I'm licensed to practice law in Texas.  However, I am not representing myself in the Heartland Greenway Pipeline matter.  I'm consulting with an Illinois lawyer with extensive experience dealing with pipeline and utility easements.  If you're an impacted landowner, I strongly advise you to do the same.

Don't let the use of the word "Greenway" in the pipeline company's name fool you.  It's not planning to build a 1300-mile linear park with bike trails and picnic tables.  It's engaged in a for-profit venture, and the landowner packet I received clearly states that it intends to seek eminent domain authority to take privately-owned land to make money for itself, its customers, and its owners.  It has lawyers.  You should as well.

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret)

Banner image of a rural farm in Ohio. Photo by Doc Searls, via Flickr

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