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Providing access not always simple  

Credit:  Gerry Gamel, Editor | Mason County News | January 28, 2015 | www.masoncountynews.com ~~

I’ve been watching a Netflix series that originated on the History Channel called “How the States Got Their Shapes.” It’s a wonderful show that explains the strange, sad, tumultuous histories of how our nation was shaped. I’ve learned the stories behind Oklahoma’s panhandle, California’s odd bend; and, Pennsylvania’s strange northern nub.

Borders are important. As the poets have reminded us, “good fences make good neighbors.” However, once borders are set, there are still issues as to how we allow residents to move from one state to another. There are even more issues when we get into a discussion about how we move across our national borders; but, that is not our focus today.

We also have borders on much smaller scales: the walls of our houses, the fences around our yards, and the fences around our entire properties. Many times, the borders of our properties create barriers. Property can become landlocked, with no access to public roads, with no way to come and go freely. When that happens, we need to resort to a legal solution known as an easement.

Easements clarify the exact way and the exact location of ingress and egress to property. The easements become part of the property description, making sure that it cannot be rescinded just because of a change in ownership. Easements can apply to roads, sidewalks, stairways, utility lines and pipelines.

Some easements are granted as part of land sales. A majority landowner, choosing to sever out property from the interior of his land, will often freely give an easement to the purchaser.

Some easements are derived due to the need for the public good. We would not have the series of roads and utilities that we enjoy if not for those easements, many of which required the use of imminent domain in order to create the easement that was necessary to complete the project.

Many easements involve financial renumeration. When private power companies needed easements to get electricity from wind farms in west Texas to consumers in south and central Texas, they payed in order to secure those rights of way. If a landowner chose to not accept payment, the power lines zigzagged around till it found a more welcoming route.

And then, there are easements that come about with the granting of common carrier status. When a company is granted such designation, it means that the folks in charge of granting such rights have determined that the products being delivered are of an overriding public need that private companies can obtain the imminent domain status of the government.

Common carrier status helps insure that the water of the Colorado River can move from Arizona into the cities of the Los Angeles basin to supply their unending thirst. It means that oil and gas can move from fields in remote west Texas to refineries and shipping facilities along the coast. By designating someone as a common carrier, many of the usual obstacles to growth and development are either completely removed, or lessened considerably.

There is currently a pipeline being planned from southwestern Mason County, through the Streeter area, up into Camp Air and over toward Voca. The developer has common carrier status. Landowners were surprised to discover surveyors descending upon their properties, plotting out pipeline routes and drawing up maps, all before landowners had ever been contacted about their willingness or hesitation to host such a pipeline on their properties. In January, landowners began receiving certified letters telling them that the pipeline WOULD be going across their property. The landowners were told how much they would receive for one-time payment for the easement, and they were given a map of the route across their property.

We have a long history of defending private property rights in this county and in this state; but, common carrier status turns its back on those rights. Landowners are given second class status behind the desires of the oil and gas companies, with the idea that the project is of such an overriding public interest that landowners rights are secondary.

With our wonderful supplies of fresh water in our area in comparison to other areas of the state, it is quite possible that large municipalities will look to secure water rights in the county or around our borders. It will then be necessary to build waterlines to carry that to the consumers, and it is quite likely that those pipeline companies will be able to rely upon common carrier status to dictate the terms of the easements to landowners.

This is a subject that is only now developing. It is one that we all need to learn more about, and that we need to remain keenly observant of, if we are to protect our rights. We are the ones who will determine the landscape our children will inherit, and I would rather we make those decisions rather than oil, gas and utility companies.

It’s all just my opinion.

Source:  Gerry Gamel, Editor | Mason County News | January 28, 2015 | www.masoncountynews.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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