Transmission Line Condemnation

Route Selection, Condemnation, and Just Compensation For Your Land

Often the receipt of a letter informing you that your property is under consideration for one or more of the routes for a proposed transmission line becomes the first time a landowner is exposed to the Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) of Texas and the transmission line project approval and route selection process. It is also generally the initial step in a process that may lead to the application of eminent domain to affected property, and ultimately condemnation. Transmission line projects involve several distinct issues which require landowners to timely and diligently exercise their rights and for which affected landowners may want the guidance and assistance of legal counsel experienced in the representation of Texas landowners, including: Route Selection; Determination of Land Value and the Negotiation of Easement Agreements; and Condemnation. The attorneys at Lovell, Lovell, Isern and Farabough, L.L.P. are experienced landowner advocates, ready to discuss how they can assist you with the different aspects of a transmission line project affecting your property.

Route Selection

Our law firm has actively assisted Texas Panhandle and West Texas landowners during the route selection process of transmission line condemnations. Typically, the process of route selection under a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (“CCN”) application proceeding – the proceeding under which the Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) of Texas considers new transmission line projects – takes about one year. Under specific statutes created to address transmission lines for the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (“CREZ”), route selection occurs by law over a matter of only 181 days. We have worked with landowners and transmission service providers to negotiate mutually acceptable compromises in route selection.

Landowners affected by a proposed transmission line may only fully participate in the PUC’s decision by timely intervening in the CCN proceeding. The deadline to intervene is provided in the notice affected landowners receive regarding a proposed transmission line. The PUC bases its decision regarding approval of a proposed transmission line and route selection on evidence submitted in the CCN proceeding. In order for a landowner to be able to present evidence in a CCN proceeding affecting the landowner’s property, intervening as a party is absolutely necessary.

Intervening parties can present evidence on factors considered by the PUC in determining approval and route selection of a proposed transmission line project, including:

To provide the PUC with evidence to consider in regard to these and other considerations, landowners must timely intervene. The attorneys at Lovell, Lovell, Isern & Farabough, L.L.P. can help you understand the process and your rights, as well as assist you in intervening should you decide to actively participate in the proceeding affecting your land.

If you have recently received notice that property you own is affected by a proposed transmission line project, and you would like to discuss your rights and your options, please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Lovell, Lovell, Isern & Farabough,

L.L.P. The deadline to intervene will be identified in the notice you as a landowner were provided regarding the proposed transmission line project. You will want to know your rights and options in advance of that deadline so that you may timely exercise your rights regarding route selection.

If you are an affected landowner but do not wish to fully participate in the route selection process as an intervening party, another option available is filing an informal comment as a protest to the proposed transmission line project. Keep in mind that those comments are not evidence, and the protesting landowners are not parties to the proceeding. By law the PUC must base its decisions on evidence, which can only be presented by parties, including intervenors.

Land Value & Easement Agreements

Once the Public Utility Commission of Texas has approved the routes for transmission lines, Texas landowners need to be prepared for the next important step in the process, Transmission Easement negotiations. Should your property be selected during the routing process, the transmission service provider is required by law to contact you and attempt to negotiate a Transmission Easement Agreement. These agreements are often very complicated and can have far-reaching effects on you and your property. How you protect yourself and your land during the construction and maintenance of transmission lines and facilities is established at this critical stage.

The terms negotiated at this point are often valuable, and can include:

  1. Surface damages;
  2. Reclamation;
  3. Fencing requirements;
  4. Gate protocols;
  5. Road use, construction;
  6. Indemnity;
  7. Fire arms, hunting and fishing prohibition; and,
  8. Use of easement by granting party.

Additionally, and critically, the owner of the transmission line project will negotiate the value of the easement property. Establishing a value for the actual land granted (or taken/condemned by exercise of eminent domain) and damage to the remainder of your property is a crucial element in protecting yourself and your land. Our law firm has extensive experience in complicated land transactions throughout West Texas and the Texas Panhandle. We have been protecting the rights of landowners in transactions with oil companies, utilities and fellow landowners for many years. We can assist you in negotiating, and if necessary fighting, for a fair value for your property that is subject to condemnation for the transmission line project.

Condemnation

If you are unable to reach an agreement during negotiations, the transmission service provider will exercise the power of condemnation. The purpose of condemnation is to establish just compensation for your land that will be taken for the transmission line. The condemnation process is primarily governed by Texas Property Code Chapter 21.

The process generally follows these steps:

  1. The transmission line project owner provides the landowner disclosures and an initial offer for the easement, a copy of the landowner’s bill of rights statement, and a bona fide offer. Understanding the timing of these offers and information is critical to protecting your rights as a landowner under the statutory scheme governing condemnation in Texas.
  2. The transmission line project owner will also likely file a condemnation petition with a County Court at Law or District Court in the county where the property is located.
  3. The Judge of the court in which the condemnation petition is filed will appoint three "disinterested landowners" as Special Commissioners to determine damages from the proposed taking. The parties will have the right, if exercised timely, to strike one of those Special Commissioners and have a replacement appointed.
  4. The landowner will have the right to participate in the process and can appeal any decision by filing a law suit.
  5. The value of your property is established by the Special Commissioners or by trial if the Commissioners' award is appealed.

The condemnation process is governed by a statutory scheme in Texas. Once a condemnation petition is filed, the condemnation is a disputed proceeding that takes place in court, where you will need the assistance of an attorney. The Amarillo attorneys at Lovell, Lovell, Isern & Farabough, L.L.P. are experienced and capable at helping you through the condemnation process.

Competitive Renewable Energy Zones

CREZ has become a familiar word to Texas Landowners. Competitive Renewable Energy Zones were created by the Texas Legislature in 2005. The idea was to encourage the development of wind energy in Texas by facilitating the construction of 345 kV transmission lines to carry wind generated electricity from wind farms in the Texas Panhandle and Central Texas, to larger population areas downstate. While the initial CREZ projects are now complete, the number and size of wind farm projects in the Texas Panhandle and West Texas continue to grow. As more wind energy generation facilities are built, it is anticipated additional CREZ transmission lines will be needed. In late 2015, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. (“ERCOT”) recommended upgrades to existing CREZ facilities in the Texas Panhandle necessary to meet the needs of expanding wind energy generation.

The expansion of wind energy generation projects in the Texas Panhandle and West Texas is not only increasing the need for more CREZ transmission capacity and lines, it is also leading to landowners being approached to lease their wind rights. The firm of Lovell, Lovell, Isern & Farabough, L.L.P. is experienced in representing landowners in the negotiation, and when necessary litigation, of leases and other agreements related to rights and interests of property owners. If you have been contacted about leasing your wind rights, executing an easement, or condemnation, and you have questions regarding your rights as a landowner or how our firm could assist you in the process, please contact us. We would appreciate the opportunity to explain your rights as a landowner and the experienced assistance and advocacy we offer.

Call US: 806.373.1515 / español 806.322.9832 112 SW 8th Ave, Suite 1000, Amarillo, TX 79101

Attorneys Licensed in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico