Williams Reveals Eminent Domain Strategy for Atlantic Sunrise

One of the interesting breakout sessions MDN editor Jim Willis attended at last week’s Shale Insight event in Pittsburgh was a panel of lawyers discussing recent rulings in the Marcellus/Utica related to eminent domain and royalties. Sitting with the lawyers was a non-lawyer panelist from Williams. Aaron Blair is right-of-way manager for Williams in the northeast. He managed securing easements for the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project, Williams’ $3 billion, 198-mile pipeline project running through 10 Pennsylvania counties to connect Marcellus Shale natural gas from northeastern PA with the Williams’ Transco pipeline in southern Lancaster County. The lawyers on the panel peppered Blair with questions about his strategy for securing rights. Blair’s strategy boils down to this: if/when you need to file for eminent domain, do so in federal, NOT Pennsylvania state court (and certainly not with appointed commissions). Blair finds federal judges know the law and stick to the law–and the case law with regard to eminent domain, whether you like it or not, is quite clear when it comes to pipelines. Atlantic Sunrise began with needing leases from about 950 landowners. In the end, just under 50 of them had to be settled with eminent domain proceedings in court. Here’s an overview of what Blair said on the panel…

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