Mountaineer Gas paid $1.18 million to buy rights of way through 119 parcels of land in Morgan and Berkeley counties to build the company’s natural gas pipeline.
That’s according to a review of public documents by Tracy Cannon of Eastern Panhandle Protectors.
Cannon found that there was a large disparity in the amount paid to landowners, with two landowners being paid only $500 each and another being paid $113,408 for the rights of way.
“Mountaineer Gas took advantage of landowners who were coerced early in 2016, before citizens became aware of their rights and before opposition to the pipeline began to build,” Cannon said.
“Holding out was key to getting a better payout,” Cannon said. “Of the 59 landowners who received less than $4,000, 38 of them signed the right of way agreement between July and September of 2016, the earliest contract dates on record. Of the highest payouts, those 33 landowners who received $11,000 or more, 27 of them signed after January of 2017.”
Cannon said the worst deal was with an elderly couple who were paid $1,449 for an easement cutting through 38 acres of their property.
“This was not an easement that just cut off a corner of their property — it goes straight through the middle of their property and close to their house,” Cannon said. “They are a very nice older couple, probably in their 70’s or maybe 80’s.”
“We went and spoke to many of the lowest earners,” she said. “Of six parties that we actually spoke to, four were older folks. Two of the properties seem abandoned by their owners — no one is ever there. Over the past year I have been to the homes no less than three times and found no one home. Three of the lowest paid landowners do not live on the property in question, and one property owner has sold their land since signing the agreement.”
“Those we spoke to did not seem aware that other families have gotten much more money than they did,” Cannon said.