Dwight and Sandy Kimbriel of Clarksville are, they believe, the last holdouts in Johnson County in granting an easement for the Diamond Project’s crude oil pipeline. Now, the pipeline company is taking them to court and asking for immediate access to their property.
The Diamond Project, an $800 million project by Valero/Plains All American, will transport Bakken shale crude from Cushing, Okla., to Valero’s Memphis refinery. The oil spill from an Exxon pipeline that despoiled a neighborhood in Mayflower and required the excavation of poisoned soil from a nearby wetland has sharpened public concerns about pipeline routes.
Arkansas law gives common carriers the right to take property, and Diamond has filed an eminent domain petition against the couple. Trial is set for Jan. 8 in Clarksville Circuit Court before Judge William M. Pearson.
The Kimbriels, who are representing themselves in court because, Sandy Kimbriel said, they cannot afford a lawyer, have been offered $4,590 by Diamond in compensation. But the Kimbriels believe the pipeline, which they say will run 24 feet from the foundation of their Clarksville home, will make their property impossible to sell, based on information they received from an appraisal. The Kimbriels’ 2,414-square-foot house is located on two-and-a-half acres surrounded by woods at 4 Heather Oaks Way.
A document by the Kimbriels’ appraiser, Cornerstone, said the pipeline would harm “market appeal, land usage and desirability” of the Kimbriel’s home, valued at $209,000. “The realistic value of this property with the high pressure oil line running within feet of the structure, and current build-back regulations imposed by lenders and insurance guidelines, would be reduced to a total loss of value.”
Diamond’s first petition, filed in June, said the easement would be 50 feet. But after the Kimbriels filed with the court a copy of a survey of their property showing the Diamond easement would cross a corner of the Kimbriels’ house, Diamond amended its suit to reduce the easement to 35 feet. (Diamond is boxed in by an existing power line easement 50 feet from the Kimbriels’ house.)
Also named in the suit is Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc. (MERS) of Delaware, which holds the mortgage to the Kimbriels’ home. Its response to the suit said that the compensation offered by the company “is not sufficient for the taking of any portion” of the property and asks the court to dismiss Diamond’s petition “for failure to state facts upon which relief can be granted.” The attorney for MERS, Randy Grice of North Little Rock, declined comment, as did Plains All American. Plains All American also declined to say what other suits the company may have filed in Arkansas.
Arkansas statute 23-15-101 grants common carriers the right of eminent domain. A bill in this year’s legislative session by state Democratic Rep. Warwick Sabin of Little Rock that would have amended the law to require utilities to get a certificate from the Public Service Commission and follow certain rules for notification and environmental considerations died in the House.
Diamond sent a surveyor to their property two years ago, Sandy Kimbriel said, but she said she and her husband thought they were with the Clean Line project to carry electric power from a wind farm in Oklahoma to Tennessee. “We didn’t know until we got papers last October that it was an oil pipeline,” she said. She said the company told her they would not trench the land but would tunnel through from across the street, though the petition would give Diamond the right to clear, excavate and change the pipeline size, among other changes.
“We don’t want them here,” Kimbriel said, “but if they’re here we want them to be fair.”
The proposed route of the pipeline, which requires the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers but requires no public hearings, has raised the concerns of Clarksville Light and Water as well because it crosses three streams that supply drinking water for Clarksville and the other cities in Johnson County that the utility serves.
The state Department of Health has informed the Corps of its objections to two pipeline crossings, one at the White River and another near the Hughes Community Water Association well, and the fact that the company has not provided a complete route map to the department.