Family takes on Chevron in fight to save land

by Heather Miller

Sabine Pipe Line, a Chevron subsidiary, is trying to expropriate property along Vermilion Parish's Henry Hub, a move landowners claim is an attempt by the big oil company to skirt paying an estimated $200 million to repair environmental damage.

A Chevron subsidiary is trying to expropriate 60 acres of land in Vermilion Parish along the Henry Hub in accordance with the Natural Gas Act, a federal law that allows energy companies to take property from landowners who won't cooperate and threaten to disrupt work "deemed necessary" by the federal government.

According to The Advocate, the 70 family members who own the land are crying foul against the big oil company, accusing it of trying to get out of paying an estimated $200 million in environmental repair costs from damages reportedly caused by the oil company:

In dispute is 60 acres of leased land in rural Vermilion Parish north of La. 330 that includes part of the Henry Hub, which connects a series of large interstate gas pipelines and where so much natural gas flows that the prices set there are a benchmark for the national market.

But the dozens of family members who jointly own the property argue that they have not denied Sabine the right to use the land. The family members also said the expropriation is a defense strategy in a lawsuit they are pursuing for alleged environmental damage related to decades of oil and gas activity.

"It's a tactic, but it is a serious one, obviously, and we believe unprecedented. We think it is an abuse of a good law," said Warren Perrin, a Lafayette attorney whose great grandparents first leased the property for a natural gas operation in 1942. "If they succeed here, every landowner who has oil and gas activity on their property could be threatened," he said.

In the lawsuit seeking expropriation of the property, attorneys argue that the Henry Hub is too important to the national economy to allow for any disruption of operations. Perrin said Sabine's lawsuit to seize the property, filed Nov. 23 in federal court in Lafayette, comes just a few months after an estimate for cleaning up alleged environmental damage put the cost at more than $200 million.

Read more here.