PA Pipeline Construction FAQs

When many Pennsylvania landowners look out onto their backyards, they are unaware of the pipeline system that currently resides under their lawns. Many more are unaware of the bottleneck within the system that transports gas from a record-setting natural gas reserve in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania. That bottleneck is keeping over 1,000 of the 8,000 Pennsylvania wells dry, and preventing energy resources from reaching market, both local and abroad.

This expensive problem has led several energy companies to plan to invest billions of dollars in natural gas infrastructure projects and pipeline construction in Pennsylvania over the next ten years to transport shale gas resources. It’s expected that parts of Berks County, Chester County, Delaware County and other areas north and west of these counties will be impacted by construction and landowner disputes.  As these companies plan to dig up backyards across the Commonwealth to replace and add to current infrastructure with newer, bigger pipes, it’s important that impacted landowners understand their rights.

Here are four important questions impacted landowners should know to ask:

How long will pipeline construction take?

Landowners can and should inquire about how long the construction will take from day one through full restoration of each property. They should also know the extent of "earth disturbance" and the impact that disturbance will have on current and future use of the land, including farming and recreational uses.  This is known as the Temporary Construction Easement phase.  They should also know that the timeframe is often negotiable, and always compensable.  Landowners should push strongly for the shortest possible timeframe. The current prediction is up to 3 years, but landowners should be pushing for a 6 month to 1 year time frame.

What permanent land use limitations will this cause to properties?

The Permanent Easement sets the specific location of the pipeline or pipelines.   Landowners should understand precisely where the pipelines will be placed on their property, including the exact location, depth, width and length.  The Permanent Easement becomes part of the title for the property and will be binding not only on the landowner but all successors and assigns.  They also need to fully understand how the pipeline will impact their land.  While the pipes are located underground, the reality is they will impact future use of the land since as a general rule no buildings or structures may be placed atop the easement area.  The extent to which the easement will limit or prevent future subdivisions and construction should be clearly known.  The greater the impact, the greater the potential compensation.

How will properties be restored?

Landowners must inquire as to how their property will be restored once the project is complete. The energy companies should be held responsible up front to restore all properties to their current condition, or better.  There are many critical factors to consider, including restoration of natural resources such as streams and creeks, soil type and compaction standards, and landscaping.

Will the pipeline construction impact property and land value?

It is imperative for landowners to speak to a real estate agent and/or an appraiser early in the negotiation process to understand how the permanent easement will impact property value.   Real estate agents are predicting that property and land values can be affected by tens of thousands of dollars since the new pipelines are different and much larger than the current pipes which have been in place since the 1930s.  Before signing, make an informed decision on value.

These are just a few considerations for landowners to understand and address when asked to grant easement rights by a pipeline company in Pennsylvania.  Other considerations, such as indemnities for environmental liabilities and accidents, size of the pipeline and the pressure it will operate  under, limitations on future expansion and accessory facilities, inspection rights, and access to the easement area also should be specifically addressed.

If the landowner and pipeline company are unable to amicably negotiate the terms of the Temporary Construction Easement and Permanent Easement, and the compensation associated with each, the pipeline company may be able to obtain the easements through an eminent domain proceeding.  In Pennsylvania, pipeline companies that qualify as “public utilities” may initiate eminent domain proceedings to obtain the required easements.  In those situations, the landowner is compensated for the fair market value of the easements by a board of view or court, after the presentation of evidence by expert appraisers.   In the vast majority of cases, it is better for both the landowner and the pipeline company to amicably negotiate the terms of the easements, and a compensation package, than to resort to an eminent domain proceeding.

For more information regarding real estate and eminent domain law as it relates to the Pennsylvania pipeline projects, please contact David Brooman at 610-275-0700, or by email at dbrooman@highswartz.com.

Note:  The information above is general; we recommend that you consult with an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.  The content contained herein is not meant to be considered as legal advice or as a substitute for legal representation.

Original article was written in May, 2015.

11 High Swartz Attorneys named to PA Super Lawyers and Rising Stars lists

High Swartz is pleased to announce that 11 of its attorneys have been named among Pennsylvania’s 2019 Super Lawyers and Rising Stars. Among the highlights are two inclusions on the 50 Top Female Lawyers in Pennsylvania list going to Melissa M. Boyd and Mary Cushing Doherty of the High Swartz Domestic Relations practice.

2019 High Swartz Super Lawyers Melissa Boyd David Brooman Mary Cushing Doherty Mark Fischer Gilbert High, Thomas Panzer Thomas Rees Joel Rosen
2019 High Swartz attorneys added to the Super Lawyers List

What is Super Lawyers?

The Super Lawyers list recognizes no more than 5 percent of attorneys in each state. The Super Lawyers Rising Stars list recognizes no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys in each state. To be eligible for inclusion in Rising Stars, a candidate must be either 40 years old or younger, or in practice for 10 years or less. High Swartz 2019 Super Lawyers and Rising Stars are listed below in alphabetical order.

Melissa M. Boyd: Has been nominated to her 5th consecutive Super lawyer list preceded by 6 Rising Star distinctions. On top of her streak, Missy has been nominated to 3 Super Lawyers Top Lists in Pennsylvania. Those accolades are 100 Top Lawyers in Pennsylvania, 100 Top Lawyers in Philadelphia and 50 Top Female Attorneys in Pennsylvania. Missy is a partner and family law attorney with High Swartz and advocates in various areas including divorce, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, child custody and child support, equitable distribution, alimony, adoptions, protection from abuse and juvenile law.

David J. Brooman: 2019 marks the return to the Super Lawyers list for David. This is his 10th selection. As a land development and litigation attorney, David J. Brooman has more than three decades experience in zoning and land use development, as well as environmental law.

Mary Cushing Doherty: This will be Mary’s 16th consecutive selection to the Super Lawyers list. Along with her distinction, she’ll join the 50 Top Female Lawyers in Pennsylvania list. With a distinguished record of professional and community service, Mary Cushing Doherty has more than 35 years of legal experience as a family law lawyer. She concentrates her practice on all aspects of marital dissolution and family law issues including divorce, child support, custody, spousal support and alimony, premarital agreement asset protection, complex property division, and is the chair of High Swartz’s Family Law practice.

Mark R. Fischer: Mark has been nominated to his second consecutive Super Lawyer designation. He focuses his practice primarily on representing businesses in breach of contract, payment collection, construction defect, and consumer protection disputes throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Gilbert P. High, Jr.: This will be Gil’s 14 section in a row. Gil’s impressive career is devoted primarily to the practice of municipal and Real Estate and Land Use Law. He regularly speaks on issues pertaining to municipal liability, particularly regarding the maintenance of the Urban Forest, a subject on which he has lectured nationally.

Thomas E. Panzer: This is Tom’s first and much-deserved selection to the Super Lawyers’ list. Thomas E. Panzer, a workers’ compensation attorney, joined High Swartz in 2016 as a result of a merger with McNamara, Bolla & Panzer, Attorneys at Law, a firm for which he served as Managing Partner. Mr. Panzer is active in his community and is currently the Bucks County, Pennsylvania Treasurer.

Thomas D. Rees: Elected to his 14th Super Lawyers list, Tom heads the firm’s Litigation and Employment Practice. He focuses his practice primarily on employment law and private education law. In the education area, Tom represents a number of independent schools in the Philadelphia area, handling employment, student discipline, contract, and governance matters.

Joel D. Rosen: As High Swartz’s Managing partner, Joel has been a Super Lawyer since 2017. With more than 30 years of legal experience as a corporate law attorney, Joel Rosen’s areas of practice include franchise law, business and commercial law, employment law, trademark/copyright law and commercial leasing.

list of 2019 high swartz super lawyers rising stars
2019 Rising Stars attorneys from High Swartz

Kevin Cornish: Recently elected as a partner at High Swartz, Kevin receives his 8th Super Lawyers Rising Star selection. Kevin focuses his practice on commercial, civil, and contract & multi-state litigation support. His clients include individuals as well as local, regional, and national businesses up and down the east coast.

Elizabeth Early: has been nominated to her third consecutive Rising Star selection. Her areas of specialization include divorce, custody, support, equitable distribution, pre and post-nuptial agreements, parenting coordination and abuse matters. Liz also serves as court-appointed counsel and guardian for minor children.

Brittany M. Yurchyk: High Swartz congratulates Brittany’s first nomination to the Super Lawyers’ list as a Rising Star. Specializing in alternative dispute resolution, Brittany concentrates her family law practice on equitable distribution, child custody, child and spousal support, abuse and domestic relations.

How were the High Swartz Super Lawyers selected to the list?

Super Lawyers nominates the best attorneys using a unique selection process. Peer evaluations and nominations are combined with independent research. Nominees are evaluated on 12 indicators from professional achievement through peer nominations. Nominations are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. The Super Lawyers objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys on a national level that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel. As an aid to those selecting a lawyer, Super Lawyers only selects outstanding local lawyers who are able to be retained by the public.