Many moons ago, Edgar and Bonnie Heining of Farmington purchased four acres in North Canyon east of Bountiful.
The property, about a half-mile above an expanding community of expensive homes, was sort of a nest egg they planned to sell in about 10 years to help pay for their retirement. They hoped to get at least $60,000 for it.Now, the Kern River Gas Transmission Company wants to condemn a right of way through the Heinings' land. The company has offered $3,150 for an easement 132 feet long and 50 feet wide.
If the Kern River project is successful, Heining believes, that money is all he'll ever see from his investment.
"Once that pipeline goes through, our property will be virtually useless," Heining said. "I can't see anyone saying, `I want to put my house next to a pipeline.' Would you buy it?"
Heining is one of at least 10 property owners who believe their rights are being violated by Kern River, whose 36-inch-wide, 900-mile-long pipeline would transport natural gas from Wyoming to California.
Kern River, with the permission of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, already has started to clear sections of right of way in southern Utah and Clark County, Nev. But pipeline opponents want construction stopped until those questions and other issues can be addressed.
Kenley Brunsdale, attorney for the Bountiful Hills Residents and Concerned Citizens Association, has filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington to stop the energy commission and Kern River from proceeding.
"There is no public urgency for construction to proceed on this project," the lawsuit states.
The energy commission issued Kern River and a competing company, WyCal Pipeline Co., certificates to build a pipeline, leaving it up to the marketplace to decide which company actually would build the project. WyCal since has backed out.
In issuing the certificates, the commission found the project was of "public convenience and necessity," a requirement for exercising the power of condemnation.
But the lawsuit attacks the commission's finding as being based on presumption rather than on evidence.
"While a presumption of public necessity may be adequate to authorize construction of a new pipeline, it does not satisfy the higher standard of public necessity required to justify condemnation," the suit states.
Brunsdale, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year, characterized the pipeline project as a modern-day "California gold rush" whose benefits to the public have not been weighed against the cost.
"The only urgency is Kern River's own greed. . . . There's no public interest involved here, so there's no reason for them to run roughshod over the public."
The lawsuit also indicts Kern River's bulldozing through three archaeological sites in early February as the result of the energy commission's "generic approach" in analyzing impacts of the project.
" are certain that similar damage and waste will occur to watersheds in Davis County if Kern River proceeds without the benefit of a more detailed analysis of impacts," the suit states.
The suit also asks for an environmental review of the recently approved Altamont Natural Gas Pipeline project, which starts in Canada and could connect into the Kern River pipeline, possibly doubling volume and pressure in the Kern River project.