Survey of Landowner Experiences with Natural Gas Pipeline Installations

Natural gas pipeline

Numerous natural gas pipelines have been installed in Ohio to transport fracked petroleum from Eastern Ohio to other regions of the state. These pipelines are essential components of Ohio’s energy infrastructure and bring economic growth to the region. However, the pipeline installation process creates a large amount of disturbance that can have lasting impacts on soil and crops.

We recently conducted a landowner survey intended to capture the collective experiences of Ohio residents having pipelines installed on their land. We targeted landowners with property crossed by one of three independently operated pipelines in Ohio that were installed from 2016-2018: the Rover, Utopia and Nexus pipelines. We sent out 600 surveys to a random sample of landowners and had a 31.5% response rate with responses from 22 Ohio counties.

The link to the fully report can be found below, but highlights of our findings include:

  1. Pipeline installation often occurred when soil was too wet to work.
  • 71.5% of respondents answered “Yes” to the question, “During the installation process, were there times when soil conditions were not optimal, but pipeline installation continued?”
  • Those who answered “Yes” were asked to rate how sub-optimal the conditions were during installation. 55.7% said the soil conditions were extremely sub-optimal (soil completely saturated).
  1. Soils were often not remediated to their original condition after pipeline installation
  • Three years after site remediation was complete, only 17.6% answered “Yes” to the question, “Do you feel that your land is generally back to the condition it was prior to pipeline installation?”  By contrast, 82.4% of the respondents answered “No” to this question.
  • Respondents were asked to report yields they had measured in areas over the pipeline relative to an adjacent, unaffected area. We received 52 paired yield measurements in corn, popcorn, soybean and wheat. All but one response indicated yield reductions over the pipeline right of way compared to an adjacent area (Figure 1). Yield reductions across crops ranged from 22% more yield to 100% less yield (total crop failure), with average declines across crops approximately 40 – 60%.

Chart, scatter chart

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Figure 1. Farmer-reported percent differences in crop yields between the pipeline and an adjacent, non-impacted area. Values on the left side of the red dotted line indicate a yield reduction over the pipeline when compared with adjacent areas, while values on the right side indicate an increase in yield. 

  1. Landowners had mixed, but often negative experiences with the installation process
  • Roughly half of the respondents (56.3%) were not satisfied with the experience compared to satisfied (31.9%)
  • About one-third of respondents (36.1%) felt that they were fairly compensated for the easement, while 46.6% did not feel fairly compensated.
  • A quarter (26.7%) would be open to negotiating a future easement compared with 55.6% who said they would not be open to another pipeline easement. 
  1. Responses were mostly consistent across the three targeted pipelines
  • Responses to questions were similar across pipelines, indicating these experiences might be considered typical with contemporary pipeline installation methods.
  • Overall, survey responses are consistent with results of fieldwork conducted by our team on 29 farms across 8 Ohio counties in 2020 and 2021 that documented significant soil degradation and reduced crop yields within pipeline easements compared to nearby soils.

More pipelines are projected to be installed in Ohio in the coming years. But farmers should be appropriately compensated for soil degradation and sustained crop yield losses from these activities. Current easement payments and mitigation requirements should likely be revisited, as all available evidence from Ohio suggests that degradation often persists for more than 3 or 4 years after installation and remediation is complete.

The full report to this survey can be found here: go.osu.edu/pipeline-survey

More information on the pipeline project can be found here: go.osu.edu/pipeline-study

Crop Observation and Recommendation Network

C.O.R.N. Newsletter is a summary of crop observations, related information, and appropriate recommendations for Ohio crop producers and industry. C.O.R.N. Newsletter is produced by the Ohio State University Extension Agronomy Team, state specialists at The Ohio State University and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). C.O.R.N. Newsletter questions are directed to Extension and OARDC state specialists and associates at Ohio State.