With natural gas in high demand in the United States, a local gas company is working to reactivate an abandoned pipeline so it can move reserves in northern Warren County to Bowling Green to be refined and sold. The company, Viking Energy, has run into a dispute with a few Warren County land owners over who owns the rights to the property the pipeline runs under. While Viking says they purchased the rights after the line's previous owner went bankrupt, one land owner near Richardsville disagrees.
"They had a representative come by the house a couple time, those negotiations were take the dollar or we'll file eminent domain. They weren't very friendly as quoted by Mr. Parsley. They were quite confrontational." says Steve Milam, a land owner in Warren County.
Steve Milam's home sits about one hundred feet from the pipeline that was installed by Pride Gas more than twenty years ago. When Pride went bankrupt, Viking Energy purchased the easement rights to the inactive line. Now Viking wants to reactivate the pipeline.
According to Viking Energy CEO, Michael Parsley "The pipeline already exists, it's in the ground. We're not going in and adding any new lines, we're strictly just going in and repairing an old line."
Even though Viking claims to own the easement rights for the line, a pipeline easement contract, from Pride Gas, dated December 27, 1988 states that the right of way easement terminated two years after the pipeline ceased to be used. Bowling Green attorney, Charles English says Viking is trying to buy back those rights.
"What is occurring presently is this successor company is trying to mail out checks to all the property owners who's property those old pipelines go across in an effort to reactivate the easement." says English
Then there's the issue of eminent domain. Milam says when he didn't sign the contract from Viking, the company threatened to use eminent domain.
English says, "Viking filed three suits attempting to exercise the right of eminent domain to condemn easements across property owners who have not fallen for there bait of cashing the checks that were sent out."
In a statement from Viking Energy on Friday, the company says it is not using eminent domain to force landowners to allow new pipelines to be constructed on their properties, but just seeking to maintain or repair existing lines.
"After months of good faith offers and negotiations, we were forced to go into a condemnation in order to affirm there rights to enter there properties, work on the existing pipeline, and ensure its in safe operating order." says Parsley
According to Milam, "The deal by Viking as presented, is fair to no one but Viking."
As part of the easement agreement, Viking would own the rights for life. Property owners could still use the land, they just wouldn't be allowed to build on the easement area, and Viking would have access to the property year round. Viking's CEO told WBKO that extracting gas from wells in northern Warren County will put money back into the local economy as well as the pockets of those who own the land the gas well sits on.