GENESEE COUNTY (WJRT) - (02/16/17) - Earlier this week, we told you about plans by Consumers Energy to build a new natural gas pipeline from Zilwaukee to Oakland County. Before they do that, they're going to have to compensate 650 property owners where the pipes will be installed.
It's called eminent domain. When authorized by the Michigan Public Service Commission, Consumers Energy will be able to dig the path for the pipeline across private property - but not before paying the land owners.
The work will start this summer in Saginaw County. Consumers will be replacing about 78 miles of pipe and rerouting 16 miles of pipeline on a new path, which has not been finalized.
"Consumers Energy representatives are talking to potentially affected customers at the time and we expect those final decisions to be made in a couple of weeks," said Kevin Keane, of Consumers Energy.
An attorney with 45 years of experience in eminent domain issues says property owners need to be aware of their rights before signing any agreements.
"Before Consumers Energy meets with an owner about how much they will get paid, Consumers will have to prepare an appraisal on what's being taken and make an offer not less than that appraisal value," said Alan Ackerman.
The pipeline will cut a 60 foot wide swath along the new route and Consumers Energy will own that easement. Property owners will have a lot to think about when receiving the appraisal.
"Then each owner can choose whether to hire a lawyer at that time or can hire one earlier, but there's a limit to what Consumers can do. They have to give people fair value," Ackerman said.
For those who own property where the old pipeline will be dug up, depending on what the deed says, they may not get much compensation.
"The agreement for the people who already have the pipeline in place may very well say they get paid a dollar a foot," Ackerman said.
Consumers Energy says the bigger pipeline is needed to meet natural gas demands of the future.