West Texas Pipeline Brings Up Questions While Awaiting Final Approval

October 20, 2023

Proposed map of the Saguaro Connector courtesy of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

While ONEOK’s west Texas pipeline, the c, waits for regulatory approvals, impacted property owners are raising concerns about ONEOK’s right to take their properties. ONEOK, an Oklahoma oil and gas corporation, submitted a pipeline proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in December 2022. If approved by the end of this year, land acquisitions could begin as soon as 2024.

Spanning 155 miles across Reeves, Jeff Davis, Culberson, and Hudspeth counties, the natural gas pipeline would terminate across the border in Mexico where the natural gas would be sold on the global market. 

Why are pipeline operators allowed to use eminent domain?

Pipeline companies can obtain the power to condemn from different sources. If ONEOK obtains an order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Authority, it might condemn as an interstate pipeline. On the other hand, if ONEOK condemns as an intrastate pipeline, it might condemn as a gas utility that would be regulated by the Railroad Commission of Texas.  

Under either scenario, it is important to speak with an experienced eminent domain attorney before letting someone survey your property.

Is international oil and gas transport considered ‘public use’?

Many impacted landowners have been troubled to see their property condemned in connection with a pipeline that transports domestic energy products outside the United States. The legal issues associated with transporting energy products outside the United States are nuanced and have been litigated previously on projects like the Saguaro Connector.

“We dealt with similar issues on the Trans Pecos Pipeline that was constructed several years ago, although that pipeline was mostly designated as an intrastate pipeline subject to regulation by the Railroad Commission of Texas. The small portion of the pipeline that crossed the international border with Mexico was not designated as an intrastate pipeline and was instead regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Authority,” said Barron, Adler, Clough & Oddo attorney Nicholas Laurent. “The bifurcated nature of that pipeline specifically raised numerous questions about how the pipeline satisfied the public use mandate of the United States and Texas Constitutions. Similar questions will most certainly be raised in connection with the Saguaro Connector pipeline.”

Eminent domain issues related to pipeline development like the Saguaro Connector can be particularly complex, but an expert eminent domain attorney can help property owners through the process. Contact Barron, Adler, Clough & Oddo if you think your property may be impacted by the Saguaro Connector pipeline.