Several questions and answers were posted on the Texas Railroad Commission website to provide general information about pipeline companies in Texas and their powers of eminent domain. To view a complete list of questions and answers, go to: http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/eminentdomain.html.
Q: Does the RRC have to approve the route of a proposed pipeline?
A: Generally, no. The Commission does not have the authority to decide the route a pipeline takes. The exception to this is when the pipeline contains “sour gas” (hydrogen sulfide) because of its toxicity at certain levels.
Q: How close can a pipeline come to my house or other permanent structure?
A: There are no minimum setback requirements concerning natural gas pipelines and structures. However, a hazardous liquids pipeline must be buried an extra 12 inches in addition the 36 inches/3 feet depth that pipelines must be buried at when installed, if the hazardous pipeline is within 50 feet of a permanent structure. Examples of hazardous liquid pipelines are any pipelines other than natural gas pipelines.
Q: Do all pipeline operators have the power of eminent domain?
A: Generally speaking, common carrier pipelines in Texas have a statutory right of eminent domain. Common carrier pipelines are operators that transport oil, oil products, gas, carbon dioxide, salt brine, sand, clay, liquefied minerals or other mineral solutions.
For example, a pipeline transporting hazardous liquids would be a common carrier, and would have the right of eminent domain. A ‘common carrier’ pipeline transporting natural gas would be a ‘public utility’ (more commonly referred to as a ‘gas utility’), and also would have the power of eminent domain. The Railroad Commission does not have the authority to regulate any pipelines with respect to the exercise of their eminent domain powers.
Q: How can I tell if the company that wants to cross my land has the power of eminent domain?
A: The Railroad Commission can inform you as to the status of a pipeline as either a gas utility or a common carrier, both of which have a statutory right of eminent domain. For information on natural gas pipelines, call the Railroad Commission’s Utility Audit Section at (512) 463-7022. For information on other pipelines, call the License & Permit Section at (512) 463-7167.
Q: If my property has been condemned for a pipeline easement, does the RRC want to be notified?
A: Yes. If your land has been condemned for a pipeline easement, the Commission would like to be informed, since there is no requirement for the operators to notify the Commission. This will help ensure that the operator is properly classified as either a gas utility or a common carrier, depending upon the commodity being transported. Please notify the Utility Audit Section at (512) 463-7022.