By Ashley Lau
Reprinted with Permission from the Tioga Tribune
Emotion bubbled over at what was supposed to be a “good neighbor” meeting between Alliance Pipeline representatives and area landowners.
Sixteen landowners present at Tioga City Hall raised numerou concerns during the two hour meeting.
“We are just trying to be good stewards to our land,” said Brenda Jorgenson, rural White Earth.
The proposed project will run 79 miles to connect natural gas from the Williston Basin to the Alliance mainline. The gas would then be shipped to the Chicago market hub.
The project is currently at a bit of a standstill, with Alliance trying to gather survey permission from landowners.
Alliance employees Ken Goulart and Daphne Grandon answered questions on behalf of the company.
A major issue seemingly at the root of other landowner concerns was the vague language contained in the contracts they have received.
Compensation is another issue, with landowners complaining the company has offered $40 per rod when other companies are paying an average of $100 per rod. Alliance reps said they would be open to price negotiation.
Elroy Hans, a landowner from White Earth, asked, “Why are you giving us such a little amount of money when you stand to make billions, and then leave us with a huge liability?”
Hans is concerned about the proximity of the pipeline to his feedlot and house.
Goulart countered saying, “We are not looking to force liability or grievances on you.”
He also stated that “billions” is an exaggeration. Goulart suggested residents look at the company as a trucking company.
The pipeline would keep hundreds of trucks off the road. “We realize this (pipeline) is needed” said Hans, in part to cut down on truck traffic.
But as Boyd Anderson, Tioga, pointed out, most of the owners have had their land handed down for generations, making it valuable not just to their livelihood but their family history.
Several owners mentioned concern over the disturbance of native prairie grasses.
Goulart said their goal is to cause as little damage as possible, with these details worked into individual contracts. Clean up from previous pipelines is another sore spot.
Landowners spoke of fences being cut and not fixed, backfill creating trenches that have broken sprayers and trailers, rock piles never being removed, and access damaged by heavy traffic all by pipeline companies who failed to uphold promises to prevent those problems.
Landowners want a cleanup and damage clause as a prominent part of their contracts, which Goulart and Grandon said can be accommodated.
Contracts presented to landowners also do not specify how many lines they will have in this project and landowners leery about that lack of detail have not signed. Out of the 16 present, four landowners said they have been subpoenaed and will fall under eminent domain, a process in which a court could grant the pipeline access against their wishes.
Landowners presented claims of being harassed by surveyors, receiving threatening phone calls, and having to deal with inexperienced representatives.
Connie Anderson said the last pipeline employee she dealt with was a “hardware salesman.”
Goulart assured her they are in good standing with the state of North Dakota, with this being the second pipeline they have built in the state.
He said they have been a prominent company throughout the Midwest.
“At some point, this product has to get from A to B, and our goal as a company is to have an economic, and sound pipe,” Goulart said. “We want to work with you.”
Alliance will continue to move forward with the project, and hopes to meet one on one with the landowners to address specific issues with each.