Board of Governors sells right-of-way to pipeline company in Louisiana

Documents reveal company had taken legal action against McGill

This story is in development. The article will be updated to reflect any changes that may occur. Latest update was on February 15, at 3:23 p.m..

On February 11, the McGill Board of Governors (BoG) voted to grant the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC (Transco) the right to construct and operate a natural gas pipeline through two tracts of land in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, in which McGill owns an interest, bequeathed to it in the 1950s.

According to McGill’s Internal Communications Director Doug Sweet, although McGill did not purchase this property, it has “continued to pay small amounts of tax annually, as is its responsibility as a property owner,” apart from a small delay in covering approximately $150 in 2014.

According to the Building and Property Committee’s report to the BoG, “the property is valued at US $11,000. Transco has offered to pay US $15,418 in compensation.”

The Daily discovered that Transco filed a “complaint for condemnation of pipeline right-of-way and servitude and/or surface servitude” on November 18, 2015, against McGill and other entities holding interest over forty acres of land in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.

“The property is valued at US $11,000. Transco has offered to pay US $15,418 in compensation.”

According to court documents obtained by The Daily, “Transco is the holder of a Certificate for Public Convenience and Necessity issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC),” which gives it the right, under the U.S. Natural Gas Act, to legally acquire the right-of-way over private property.

More specifically, the certificate allows Transco to “construct, operate, and maintain a pipeline or pipelines for the transportation of natural gas” even if Transco and the owner of the property – in this case McGill – cannot come to an agreement. When that is the case, the company “may acquire the [rights to do so] by the exercise of the right of eminent domain in the district court.”

Sweet told The Daily in an email that “Transco […] has the right to take the property for public use […] in the event no agreement is reached on obtaining a servitude.”

This seems to be the case, as court documents indicate that Transco had attempted to “amicably purchase” the property rights from McGill and other landowners “for at least the true fair market value of the property interests,” however the landowners “rejected that offer.”

McGill was issued a notice on December 11, 2015, explaining that “Transco [had] the right of eminent domain under the Natural Gas Act […] because it cannot, despite good faith efforts, acquire by contract, or is unable to agree with owner of the interest sought to the compensation to be paid for the necessary right-of-way to construct, operate, and maintain the project for the transportation of natural gas.”

When this was brought to the BoG’s attention at the February 11 meeting, some directors expressed their concern about the lack of study done regarding the pipeline’s environmental impacts.

“We kind of have a gun to our heads here.”

Speaking at the meeting, Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Secretary-General Danielle Toccalino said, “The goal of McGill being in the forefront of mitigating climate change and moving to a more carbon-neutral economy should be taken into consideration.”

In response, BoG Chair Stuart “Kip” Cobbett said, “We kind of have a gun to our heads here.”

Sweet said, “The Board [of Governors] decided [on February 11] that it would better serve McGill’s interests to accept that offer rather than be subject to whatever a court might decide in terms of compensation for a right of servitudes that, under U.S. law, would be granted in any case.”

—With files from Paniz Khosroshahy