Lack of regulatory guidance leads to pipeline real estate dispute

A property developer and a major energy company in Texas are continuing to quarrel over contentious hydrogen sulfide lines on a plot of land in Odessa. The developer and the energy company each contend that the other party is responsible for burying the flow lines that carry the poisonous gas through the plot of land. While the real estate dispute is continuing in court, local officials say that the health and welfare of area workers is being compromised because of the exposed lines.

The plot of land in question is located close to the Ector County Detention Center, and the plot is connected to three oil wells. Flow lines for the poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas are connected to these oil operations. Currently, the lines are exposed because there is no surface development on the plot. However, about 500 workers are now performing tasks on the land every day — and some of them are driving over the exposed lines.

The real estate dispute involves Devon Energy suing the purchaser of the land, who wants to create surface developments on the plot. The conflict apparently lies in a poorly defined segment of Texas regulatory law. The state does not dictate responsibility for burying the flow lines. Oil leases sometimes determine responsibility, but regulatory guidance on the issue is spotty, at best.

Official reports show that the landowner believes he is being bullied by the oil company. The cost of burying the lines would only be about $92,000 — and the energy company is proposing to pay half of that cost. Still, the landowner in the real estate dispute is refusing to pay because of principle.

Real estate disputes often occur because of a lack of regulatory guidance. In such cases, the parties must resolve the purchase disputes in civil court, sometimes involving government entities. Ultimately, the safety and health of residents and workers should motivate parties to reach resolutions in such controversial cases.

Source: OA Online, “Developer, oil company fight over H2S lines” Corey Paul, Sep. 07, 2014