Constitution Pipeline files 55 eminent domain lawsuits against Catskills landowners

Above: The proposed route of the Constitution Pipeline in 2013. Via the Constitution Pipeline's website.  

Since Dec. 12, the Constitution Pipeline has filed formal eminent domain proceedings against 55 landowners along the pipeline’s proposed 124-mile route through Schoharie, Delaware and Chenango counties, federal court records show.

The pipeline, which received conditional approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Dec. 2, has wasted no time in using the power of eminent domain to force people to allow the 30-inch natural gas pipeline to cross their land.

On Wednesday, Dec. 3, the pipeline’s law firm sent a letter to resistant landowners offering them a chance to accept compensation in exchange for an easement on their property. The letter gave the landowners until Dec. 11 to make up their minds.

At least 55 landowners along the route didn’t accept that offer.

As good as its word, on Dec. 12, the pipeline’s lawyer filed a eminent domain action in federal court against a landowner in the town of Middleburgh in Schoharie County.

The next week, between Dec. 15 and Dec. 19, the pipeline filed 54 more eminent domain actions against other landowners along the route, court records show. 

Chris Stockton, a spokesman for the Constitution Pipeline, said that the pipeline has reached agreements with approximately 80 percent of landowners along the route. 

"It remains our goal to obtain the necessary easements through negotiation and avoid using eminent domain if possible," he wrote in an email. 

But Robert Nied, a member of the board of the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities in Schoharie County, which opposes the pipeline, expects more eminent domain lawsuits to come.

“There's a lot more than 55 landowners who haven't signed easements,” Nied said. "There's going to be more."

Previous coverage:

Constitution Pipeline receives federal approval, eminent domain power

Along pipeline route, dozens of landowners receive letters threatening eminent domain