The Illinois Farm Bureau wants property owners to be able to protect themselves during the proposed construction of a Midwestern crude oil pipeline.
Laura Harmon spent more than an hour presenting information to about 100 property owners in Carthage Wednesday afternoon.
As Senior Counsel for the organization, she has gotten quite used to these types of meetings, having made similar "Pipeline 101" presentations throughout the state over the last two years.
"We are going to go through the process of how a pipeline project gets approved before the Illinois Commerce Commission," said Harmon. "I just picked out the important things that you need to know about so you can figure out your options."
The meeting was directly related to a proposal by Energy Transfer (Texas) to build the more than 1,100 mile pipeline from North Dakota to southern Illinois, via South Dakota and Iowa.
Harmon said not a lot is known about the project, such as the potential route, because the company has yet to file an application for a construction permit from the ICC.
It appears to pass through multiple counties in west central Illinois, including Adams, Brown, Hancock, Morgan and Schuyler.
Harmon said the lack of a finalized route has resulted in the company trying to secure access to land throughout the region.
She said it is important for farmers to know that they can negotiate with the company before agreeing to sell land or approving an easement granting access to their property.
There could come a time, though, when that could come to an end. "Once the ICC grants eminent domain, (the company) will stop negotiating with you."
Harmon said that is a disturbing aspect of this project. She said it appears the company will seek eminent domain despite securing little, if any of the land needed.
The company would be able to acquire property through the legal system with access to eminent domain.
She repeatedly told the crowd that that highlights the importance of a strong easement, one that guards property owners against future actions by the pipeline company and protects their current operations.
"Don't sign their (original) agreement, they know it is one-sided," said Harmon. "They expect you to counter and ask for changes. (The Illinois Farm Bureau) has already told them that. (We told them) we are going to tell everyone to get an experienced pipeline attorney (who) knows what they are doing. They are going to rewrite your agreement that has all of your protections in it how we want."