As a Texas oil and gas attorney, I negotiate a large number of oil and gas pipeline easements and rights-of-way throughout Texas, as well as easements for other types of utility lines. While the landowner and I may not get everything we want in the negotiated agreement, it is almost always more fair than the agreement the pipeline company originally offered.
I also get a couple calls a month from someone who signed an oil and gas pipeline easement or right-of-way without consulting an attorney before they signed. Usually, they are seeing activity by the pipeline company that disturbs them and they want to know if the agreement they signed “lets them to do that?” The answer most of the time is “Yes”. Their next question almost always is: “Can I cancel this agreement or get out of it somehow?” The answer to that question is usually “No”.I am intrigued by why people would sign such a long term, complex, agreement, without legal advice. I have been cataloging the reasons I hear, out of curiosity. Here are some of the reasons I have heard thus far, and my parenthetical response.
1. “The landman was just so nice”. (Yes, he was nice. It is his job to be nice. If he wasn’t nice, he would have been fired a long time ago. Besides, have you ever been taken advantage of by someone who wasn’t nice?)
2. “The contract did not look that complicated”. (Well, if you are not an oil and gas lawyer, do you really know what those words mean? Do you know when words in the agreement have one meaning in ordinary use and other meaning in the oil and gas field? Even more important: do you know what’s missing?)
3. “It costs too much to see a lawyer”. (There are many oil and gas attorneys in Texas whose fees are not only reasonable, but whose rates are a fraction of the amount of damage that can be done to your land because of an improper agreement. In addition, the attorneys fees are sometimes offset by the increased pipeline company payment as the result of a negotiated agreement.)
4. “The pipeline company promised me everything I wanted, so I didn’t care if it was in the easement”. (Unfortunately most [though not all] verbal promises by the pipeline company or it’s landman are not enforceable under Texas law).
5. “The landman told me I had to sign right away, or they would withdraw their offer and I wouldn’t get the money they were offering”. (It takes a long, long time to acquire all the right-of-way for a pipeline. There is rarely a situation where it is truly: “sign now or no deal”.)
If you get an offer from a pipeline company or it’s landman, simply smile and say: “Thank you. I will seriously consider this. I will send it to my attorney promptly and we will be in touch with you soon”. And then call your attorney!!