A Columbus-based law firm is representing about 25 clients from Seneca County in a gas pipeline easement case.
William Goldman is the principal partner of Goldman & Braunstein LLP, a law firm from Columbus that works with property owners who are confronted with eminent domain situations.
Goldman & Braunstein is representing several people in Seneca, Ashland, Huron and Wayne counties who are dealing with a pipeline easement from Sunoco.
The proposed pipeline covers 22 miles through Seneca County, from the eastern side of Tiffin through the Bloomville area in a southeasterly direction.
Part of the line is to follow an existing easement where a pipeline from the 1940s exists but no longer is used. Another part of it would bypass the existing easement and be rerouted through new area.
"These gas line easements, if not written appropriately, can cause a lot of future problems for landowners," Goldman said. "Part of what we do in representing our clients is make sure the easement is written appropriately so their heirs and future owners of the property can coexist with the easement. We also work hard to make sure the compensation is correct."
Goldman said Sunoco is using an easement from 1942 for the pipeline, which he said is "ambiguous and creates problems."
"(Goldman & Braunstein is) astounded at what some of the land agents for Sunoco tell people about that easement, and about what rights they have," Goldman said. "We think that much of what's taking place is really unjustified and a lot of pressure is being put on property owners - especially the elderly - to sign easements under the threat that they'll get nothing."
He said he and his partner are attempting to "level the playing field" and they charge clients on contingency basis.
Goldman said his firm does not believe the 1942 easement grants any rights to Sunoco, and said case law says it is too "antiquated," and a more modern easement should be written.
Goldman said property owners have the right to get their properties appraised at its "highest and best value."
"We think the 50 cents paid in 1942 was partly done for patriotic reasons," he said. "People are now being offered $3.30 a foot, and we think at a minimum, that is a tenth of what it ought to be."
He said having the pipeline running through a property could lower the value of the land.
Goldman said his clients are going to get their properties appraised and come up with a fair price for Sunoco to build a pipeline on the land.
He said after that, he will begin working with Sunoco's lawyers to come up with appropriate language in the easement to protect his clients.
"There is no emergency," he said. "The pressure that's put on these people is pressure brought upon by Sunoco. There's no pressure on folks to make a decision. Sunoco is the one in the rush, property owners shouldn't be."
Ken Detterman of Bloomville hosted a meeting for landowners two weeks ago to discuss the easement.
Detterman said the pipeline installation could damage farmland. He said the line would cut through tile and tile would have to be repaired.
He said Sunoco also is asking for a temporary right of way for transporting vehicles and supplies also could compact the land, which would need repair.
Detterman said there are some land owners who already have settled with Sunoco, but many are working with lawyers to get a new easement.
"It was a joke in 1942, let alone in today's standards," he said of the easement.
Goldman, who represents Ed and Judy Goshe, said the couple believes they have not been offered fair compensation for the easement.
He said they believe the wording of the easement, itself has to be modified to accord them and their heirs appropriately, if the line malfunctions.
A representative from Sunoco was not available for comment on this story.