A right-of-way (ROW) is the right to use the strip of land over and around a pipeline that the pipeline company acquires from the landowner. Representatives of the pipeline company, typically referred to as ROW agents, locate the property owners through an examination of public records and begin negotiations to secure a right-of-way or easement agreement.
An easement gives a person or entity the right to use the land of another for a particular purpose, such as a pipeline route, but does not convey ownership.
There are two types of easements: a temporary easement and a permanent easement. A temporary easement designates additional surface area above and around the pipeline easement that will be used during the construction phase. This agreement will specify the amount of time needed and the specific uses allowed. The surface owner will in turn receive compensation for the temporary easement and surface damages due to construction.
Once the pipeline is completed, a permanent easement provides the pipeline company with a permanent, limited interest in the land so that it may operate, test, inspect, repair, maintain, replace and protect one or more pipelines on the property owned by others. Surface owners may be restricted on their future use of the land on a permanent easement to ensure the pipeline’s integrity and safety, but still maintain ownership.
Permanent easements provide an unobstructed view for surveillance of the pipeline and a protective measure against unauthorized excavation activities. Pipeline markers are placed along the ROW to indicate its presence, including at river, railroad and street crossings, as well as other heavily congested areas. Markers provide the type of product transported and the name and emergency number of the pipeline operator. They are not intended to show the exact location, depth or number of pipelines buried within that right-of-way.
Property owners may install a variety of surface amenities above pipelines, including sidewalks, driveways, parking lots and shallow-rooted landscaping. To maintain the integrity of the pipeline and allow for safety inspection access, trees, other deep-rooted landscaping and permanent structures are not permitted on pipeline easements.
In Wyoming, landowners are granted certain rights by law, which are applied when either the government or a private entity begins negotiations to acquire a landowner’s property. These rights are usually defined by the state Attorney General's office, and should be available to each landowner who is entering into negotiations with an oil or gas company.