Power Company Land Games

A Calhoun County land owner who faces losing his land to PATH testified at the Flatwoods PSC hearing.  He said, “My land is not for sale, to anyone, for anything, at any price.”

In other words, if AEP/Allegheny get their certificate of need from the WV PSC in February 2011 July 2011, the power companies will have to seize this land owner’s land in a legally mandated condemnation proceeding.

AEP/Allegheny land agents have tried to scare land owners by claiming that they will get little or nothing from condemnation suits and should voluntarily sign right of way agreements before the power companies take them to court.

No one can predict what a local court or jury will do in any case.  However, there is no need for land owners to fear a trial in your own county circuit court decided by a jury of your peers.  You will be allowed to hire your own lawyer and real estate appraiser.  You can be compensated for all your damages, including reduction in value of the rest of your land, damages to your views, and damages from reduced use of farm land.  You can also ask the court to impose safety and other limitations on the power companies’ use of your land.

The other game that land agents are playing is to confuse land owners about options they are offering on their rights of way.  Land agents appear to be telling some land owners the money used to purchase options is offered out of the goodness of the power companies’ hearts and amounts to “free money.”

If you sign an option agreement, you are accepting the power companies’ terms for the full right of way agreement if the power company decides to exercise its option within the terms of the agreement.

In fact, the option isn’t doing you a favor at all.  It is a way to lock you in to a right of way agreement, and the total amount you will be paid, so that the power companies can go to their bankers with written evidence that they have right of way agreements that they have “purchased” for a fraction of the total cost.

There is no reason for you to sign an option agreement.  Wait and see if the PSC will grant a certificate of need in 2011.  Then decide if you want to let them take your land.  Then go to a lawyer and have your own right of way agreement prepared.  Hand your own agreement to the land agent and tell them once the power companies accept your terms, then you can negotiate price with them.

Do not use their forms.  Do not negotiate without having a lawyer review any piece of paper the power companies give you.  Don’t be afraid to force them to go to court to seize your land, if the power companies won’t accept your terms and price.