Louisiana pipeline crossing bill nears vote: Update

  • : Natural gas
  • 24/03/27

Updates scheduled timing of vote in first paragraph.

The Louisiana state senate is scheduled to vote next week on a bill seeking to clarify pipeline servitude rights and expedite pipeline crossing disputes, advancing legislation promoted by three natural gas pipeline companies involved in a legal battle with US midstream giant Energy Transfer.

Natural gas transmission projects by Williams, Momentum Midstream and DT Midstream — which aim to connect growing production out of the prolific Haynesville shale to a wave of new LNG export terminals along the US Gulf coast — have been put on hold while legal proceedings between Energy Transfer and DT Midstream play out. All three companies' proposed pipelines would cross Energy Transfer's own Tiger pipeline in northern Louisiana.

The three pipeline companies' projects propose an excessive number of crossings over the Tiger line, an attorney for Energy Transfer argued in a Louisiana senate committee last week, and Energy Transfer has the servitude rights to stop them.

But Energy Transfer's "unique" interpretation of the civil code on pipeline crossings is hurting the economy of Louisiana, the author of the bill, Louisiana senator Alan Seabaugh (R), said last week. By blocking the construction of new pipelines out of the Haynesville, Energy Transfer is eliminating jobs and taxes that would be created by new infrastructure, he said.

Moreover, by arguing its servitude rights extend above and below its existing pipeline "to the center of the earth," Energy Transfer is "asserting a right that nobody has ever asserted before," Seabaugh said.

The Seabaugh bill clarifies that, unless explicitly stated otherwise in a contract, pipeline servitude rights extend only to the physical space occupied by the pipeline and any space necessary to maintain it. The contract stipulating Energy Transfer's servitude rights for the Tiger pipeline is silent on the subject of that vertical, underground space, according to bill supporters.

"This really isn't about pipeline crossings — this is about controlling market share," said Jimmy Faircloth, attorney for Momentum Midstream.

But the pipeline industry has been amicably working together for decades to allow for reciprocal crossings, Energy Transfer attorney Kay Medlin said. By ripping up this convention over a dispute involving so many crossings, and forcing an expedited legal proceeding for something which "is not a minor process," the Seabaugh bill threatens an industry "that ain't broke," she said.

"This legislation will break it, and you will likely spend years trying to fix it, if you ever can," Medlin said.

The Seabaugh bill is a companion to two bills which passed 100-0 and 99-0, respectively, in the Louisiana House of Representatives on 21 March. Those bills seek to clarify the law on pipeline crossings and to expedite proceedings on pipeline crossing disputes.

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