Frequently Asked Questions
Interstate pipelines are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Department of Transportation. Because Williams’ natural gas pipelines are federally regulated, most expansion projects we propose must be authorized by FERC. This authorization is granted only after the regulatory agencies have agreed to the merits of the proposed project. Williams must prove a need for the project and submit a plan for minimizing any adverse community, environmental or cultural resource impacts.
- Will I be notified if the pipeline is going to affect my property?
- What is the purpose of pipeline surveys?
- Who decides if the pipeline project gets built?
- How long does the process take?
- What is an easement?
- What size will the easement be?
- How will the value of the easement be determined?
- What will the presence of the pipeline do to my property values?
- What if I don’t want the pipeline on my land? Can you take my land?
- Am I going to see bulldozers and pickup trucks driving all over my land?
- How will the pipeline affect land drainage?
- What precautions will be taken to prevent the subsoil from mixing with the topsoil?
- What do I do if I find you’ve broken my water line or cut my cable or telephone line?
- When you’re finished with construction, what restrictions will I have on the use of the right of way?
- Will I still own my land? Can I still use it?
- I’d like to get some gas from Transco. How do I do that?
Will I be notified if the pipeline is going to affect my property?
Yes. Landowners whose property may be affected by the proposed route will receive a letter and/or a personal contact from a Williams land representative notifying them of the various surveys that will take place on their property. Once Williams begins the FERC pre-filing process, all potentially affected landowners will receive a packet of information from FERC and from Williams advising that their property may be affected by the pipeline project. The letter will also include the dates and locations of public meetings and instructions for obtaining more information.
What is the purpose of pipeline surveys?
Ground surveys are a preliminary first step in gathering critical information that can be used in developing a pipeline proposal. The process of conducting these surveys involves several steps. Generally, each property will be visited by various specialists in land, engineering and environmental sciences. These may or may not be concurrent visits but should not last longer than one or two days each. Some properties may need to be revisited to obtain additional data. All information collected will be used to help us determine the location of the proposed pipeline facilities. Nothing will be removed from your property without your permission. Vehicular traffic will be confined to existing roads and access ways. After the survey teams are finished, you may see survey stakes and/or ribbon tied to fences or vegetation. These markers are necessary to maintain a line of sight for the areas that have been surveyed. In areas where brush or tall grass is encountered, crews may need to cut some of this vegetation to maintain the line of sight. Some minor surface disturbance may be required with hand tools to collect soil samples. Our survey crews will take every precaution to ensure no damage to your property or disruption of your daily activities will occur.
Who decides if the pipeline project gets built?
Interstate natural gas pipelines are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). As such, FERC requires operators like Williams to obtain a federal Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, in addition to various state and local permits, before any pipeline facilities can be built.
How long does the process take?
Depending on the size of the pipeline project, the federal review and time needed for pipeline construction can vary. For the Northeast Supply Link Expansion project, Williams is anticipating that it could file an application with the FERC by late 2011. If approved by FERC, Williams could begin construction in November 2012.
What is an easement?
An easement is a limited right to use the land for specific purposes. Should Williams need to acquire a new easement, Williams will compensate the landowner for the right to construct, operate and maintain an underground pipeline (and, in limited cases, aboveground equipment related to the pipeline such as valves, and cathodic protection sites).
What size will the easement be?
The amount of land required for the easement will vary on each tract of land depending on a number of factors. A Williams land agent will discuss the land requirements with the landowner during the easement negotiations. Typically, we will need an additional 30 feet of permanent easement for operation and maintenance of the pipeline. The total width of the construction workspace will vary depending on such factors as slope, soil conditions and regulatory requirements. Generally, approximately 85 to 125 feet of workspace will be required to construct the pipeline. In certain locations, a portion of the workspace may overlap the existing right of way. All temporary workspace will revert to the landowner upon completion of construction, with no restrictions.
How will the value of the easement be determined?
The valuation of the easement will be determined by the market value of land in the area as determined by independent sources such as county deed and tax records, local appraisers, real estate brokers and other real estate professionals, considering such factors as length, width, existing use and comparable land sales in the area. Impact to the remaining property may also be considered. This information will be shared with the landowner and fair compensation will be offered. We encourage the landowner to provide any other relevant information that may be considered in establishing a fair market value. In addition to the value of the easement, the landowner will be compensated for any actual damages to their property during construction. Such damages may include loss of crop, timber, pasture, landscape features or use. Settlement of damages may occur before or after pipeline construction (or both). Damage to fences, gates, roads, drainage, etc., will be repaired prior to the contractor leaving the site. The landowner will be asked to acknowledge completion of and satisfaction with the restoration activities.
What if I don’t want the pipeline on my land? Can you take my land?
This is always a very sensitive issue and we assure you that it is not our desire or intent to obtain an easement from the landowner through the right of eminent domain, often referred to as “condemnation.” Do we have the right to condemn for an easement? Generally, once the FERC issues a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for a project, the company may, by virtue of the authority granted in the United States Natural Gas Act, seek authority from the court to obtain the limited rights necessary to construct, operate and maintain a pipeline. Contrary to the condemnation process that the landowner might experience for a highway, park or other public structure, your land would not be “taken” from you. The courts would merely grant the right for Williams to construct, operate and maintain the pipeline. The landowner would retain ownership and surface rights of the land as if an easement was granted. The courts would determine fair market value, again based on the accepted appraisal practices discussed above.
Am I going to see bulldozers and pickup trucks driving all over my land?
All construction activities will be restricted to the right of way and temporary workspace areas granted during the negotiations. Only those private roads agreed to in advance will be used by the construction crews.
How will the pipeline affect land drainage?
The right of way will be graded after construction to allow normal water drainage. All drainages will be returned to their original patterns. The right of way may be terraced, seeded, mulched or otherwise stabilized to prevent erosion.
What precautions will be taken to prevent the subsoil from mixing with the topsoil?
On improved lands, topsoil will be excavated and segregated into separate stockpiles to allow for the re-establishment of the original soil profile. In agricultural fields, hayfields or other fields used for crops, the top 12 inches of topsoil will be segregated into a separate stockpile. In places that have less than 12 inches, all of the topsoil will be removed and stored separately. Once construction is complete, the subsoil will be placed into the trench first, followed by the topsoil.
What do I do if I find you’ve broken my water line or cut my cable or telephone line?
You will be provided with the names and numbers of Williams’ personnel that you can contact in the event of such a mishap. It’s rare but not impossible. Be sure you point out the location of any underground utilities or structures to your land agent prior to construction to minimize the potential for disruption. To insure all issues and problems are properly and promptly addressed, we would prefer that you deal directly with a Williams’ employee and not the contractor doing the construction if possible.
When you’re finished with construction, what restrictions will I have on the use of the right of way?
You may return to normal surface uses of the land with limited restrictions. However, any digging, even for fencing, vegetation or drainage is prohibited without first contacting the local One-Call system (simply dial 811) or a Williams representative. No trees may be planted on the right of way. This is to maintain a clear aerial surveillance of the right of way as well as to prevent tree roots from damaging the pipeline coating. For more information on these restrictions, contact a Williams representative.
I’d like to get some gas from Transco. How do I do that?
The existing Transco pipeline is used for transporting natural gas to market areas where it can be distributed by local gas utility companies or used as fuel in power generation facilities. Contact your local gas utility company to ask about natural gas service.
Will I still own my land? Can I still use it?
It is important to note that an easement does not transfer title of the land to Williams; it merely grants the right to use the land for the specific purposes stated in the easement agreement. After construction of the pipeline, most uses of the surface of the land will be permitted, including farming activities such as crop production or raising livestock.