Landowners negotiate pipelines

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When Paul Anderson's family bought 512 acres of ranchland along the Moffat County-Wyoming border last February, they knew a pipeline had been constructed there 12 years ago. Paul's mother, Bev, could see the disturbed ground.

But they didn't know another pipeline was going in until Entrega Pipeline Company officials called several weeks after they closed the deal on the property.

Not long after the call, El Paso Pipeline Group proposed constructing another pipeline along the same route.

Now the family has two pipeline companies to negotiate with as they try to get the best leverage on their side of the bargain.

"I'd prefer not to have the pipeline, but I think we can make it livable for both parties," Paul Anderson said.

Entrega received approval for its pipeline from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the end of September, and the comment period for the pipeline closed Oct. 19. Wyoming Fish and Game and BP Energy submitted comments, and 15 companies and one resident requested intervention status.

Entrega has proposed to construct and operate 327 miles of 36-inch and 42-inch diameter pipeline starting at Meeker, across Moffat County east of Maybell, and eastward through Wyoming.

El Paso has proposed constructing and operating a 143-mile, 24-inch diameter natural gas pipeline that will terminate at a compressor station near Wamsutter, Wyo.

Although the pipelines will follow an existing route, they will still leave a footprint on the land they cross. The competing gas companies will dig two trenches to bury both pipelines, said Reed Morris of the Craig office of the Colorado Wilderness Network.

"It's a real downside to how oil and gas development proceeds on public lands," Morris said.

The same holds true for private lands.

The Andersons' property has not been worked for the past few years, but the family hopes to grow alfalfa in their meadows next summer.

But both pipelines will cut through the middle of the family's field. Because the companies have different timetables for construction, the fields will be disturbed twice.

Paul Anderson is negotiating with Entrega for payments for crop damage, but he hasn't signed anything yet. He's hoping to use the easement payments to fund his hay crops, in what he calls an attempt to get something positive out of the deal.

Entrega approaches negotiations with a "car salesman mentality," Anderson said.

"They've been tough at the bargaining table but very communicative," he said, describing the company's right-of-way people as "professional" and "a good fit for both parties."

But Dean Visintainer, another affected Moffat County landowner, described his negotiation experience differently.

"It hasn't been good," the former Moffat County commissioner said.

He participates in the Colorado Division of Wildlife's Ranching for Wildlife program. Last time he talked to Entrega, about a month ago, company representatives were asking for unlimited access to his property. Visintainer worries their presence will disturb game on his land.

Entrega is asking for an 80-foot permanent easement along the pipeline, and a 45-foot working easement, Visintainer said. Now he doesn't know what point the negotiations are at.

Other affected landowners have retained Craig attorney Thomas Thornberry to negotiate easement agreements with Entrega. Thornberry declined to say how many landowners he represents. He described the negotiations as "ongoing."

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