Oil/Gas/Gas company wants to remove trees in easement
Having just been through a wildfire in Black Forest, Colorado, I'm a bit protective of the remaining live trees on my property. Yesterday, a fellow from Plains All American came to the house to tell me that there were trees that would be removed from my property as they were encroaching on an easement granted to them in 1966. There are three gas pipelines on my property that run through this easement, but Plains All American has not interacted with us in any way since we purchased and began living here in 1988. I had a discussion with the employee, expressing my unhappiness about the removal of the trees. Today, I received a telephone call from the attorney for the company, and he said that the trees were going to come down, and that he wanted to discuss compensation. Of course, I would prefer that the trees NOT come down. So far, they have given me a copy of the "Right of Way Contract" signed by previous owners of the land in 1966. Unfortunately, the previous owners granted a blanket easement to the property, which, as far as I know, grants the gas company the right to maintain and protect their interest.I'm wondering, though, if their right to maintain and protect their easement has been estopped by their inactivity for 25 years.(Note that a different gas company did come through the easement within the last 10 years, putting in a new line. At that time, they trimmed some branches but removed no trees. We tried to fight that and lost.)As a last resort, how do I place a value on a 25+ year, perfectly healthy tree? I'm quite disappointed, as we are dealing with the loss of many trees in the fire, and the ones the gas company wants to remove are healthy and beautiful. Thanks in advance.
You are in a difficult position. The easement is perpetual and the courts look at this as if you were fully and completely aware of the easement, the rights, responsibilities and possibilities for as long as you own the property...which we are not.
Because the easement was filed of record (make sure that it was filed of record prior to your ownership of the property) you were on "constructive" notice of the easements existence. In some cases the oil and gas company will slow down if it appears you are willing to fight the removal of the trees.
Make them prove the encroachment - legally speaking; where is the encroachment, how is encroachment defined, and exactly why/how are the trees encroaching. I would have an attorney fight this battle for you since the battle is going to be a highly technical fight.
I doubt very much that they have or could possibly answer those questions based on the document you have. Make them prove their points, make them show the foundation for their rights. I've used an attorney in Denver named Sarah Sorum at Bjork, Lindley, and Little for oil and gas issues in the past. Give her a call and see if she can help or refer you to someone.