March 2010 "Landowner Rights In Jeopardy"
PLANNING FOR WEALTH & SECURITY
By Attorneys Jennifer and Jeff Hawkins
Landowner Rights In Jeopardy
The coal and coal methane gas industries want land use rights without landowner consent. Here are some recent challenges:
Spring 2009 – New law lets coal companies force some landowners to lease coal rights.
2009-10 – coal companies fighting landowners in court for strip mining rights.
Winter 2010 – coal companies want rights to install gas wells, roads, pipelines, etc. on surface owners’ property if the surface owners do not own the coal under the real estate.
Winter 2010 – Companies want condemnation power to install carbon dioxide pipelines.
The Indiana Coal Council shoved a law through the Statehouse in 2009 that robs significant landowners rights. People who share coal ownership with others can now sue the co-owners and the judge must appoint a trustee to negotiate a deal with the coal company. Co-owners that object to the deal have few chances to fight the deal. The Indiana State Bar Association (the “ISBA”) fought law in 2009 and negotiated some wording improvements, but did not discover the bill until it was too late to stop it.
House Bill 1265 would give coal companies the right to produce coal bed methane gas without surface owner consent. The bill was originally introduced to the legislature last spring, but the ISBA stopped its progress. When the bill popped up against this winter Sullivan County landowners Curtis Horton, Mike Bell, and Jeff Mann convinced the Indiana Senate Committee on Energy and Environmental Affairs to delay action until this summer. The General Assembly is expected to approve that idea this week and appoint study committee to investigate the bill this summer.
Carbon dioxide pipeline operators proposed Senate Bill 115 this year to get condemnation rights to install and operate Carbon dioxide pipelines on landowner’s property. That bill would allow companies capture environmentally hazardous carbon dioxide gas at coal-fired power plants and ship it through pipelines across private property. The companies would use condemnation proceedings similar to those that the Indiana State Highway Commission uses to condemn property to build roads. The bill stalled in the Indiana House Committee on Commerce, Energy, Technology, and Utilities, but you can bet that it will reappear next year.
The Bear Run coal mine wants to force Dugger’s Jobe and Alexander Families to sell about 60 acres for about $1,800 so that it can mine about $180,000,000 worth of coal under their land. The outcome of that battle will affect surface owner rights throughout Southwestern Indiana perpetually.
© 2009 by HAWKINS LAW PC, Estate, Trust & Business Attorneys. All rights reserved. Published with permission.