Judge Grants Access for Blackfeet Oil Pipeline Operations

The pipelines ship oil from southern Canada to Billings refineries

By Dillon Tabish

GREAT FALLS — A refining company will be able to continue operating three pipelines that transport crude oil from Canada after a judge granted access to the final land parcel whose easement had expired.

Phillips 66 had negotiated access agreements with about 600 landowners and the tribe where the pipelines cross the Blackfeet Reservation, but filed a condemnation complaint in federal court against the owners of one parcel when negotiations failed.

The original easements for the pipelines, which ship oil from southern Canada to Billings refineries, had expired after being granted in the 1960s and 1970s. The pipelines are buried between 2 ½ to 4 feet across agricultural lands on the northwestern Montana reservation.

“The owner or owners of the parcel haven’t come forward, so if they’re not representing themselves or they don’t hire a legal counsel or they are non-responsive, it’s hard to get an answer from the parties,” Phillips 66 spokesman Michael Barnes told The Great Falls Tribune in a story published Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon ruled in favor of Phillips 66 and ordered the company to pay the landowners $1,450 in compensation for access to the final parcel.

Montana law says eminent domain may be used for common carrier pipelines such as the lines operated by Phillips 66, with money awarded as damages to the landowner, Haddon said in his ruling Monday.

Federal law permits condemnation for any public purpose allowed under state law, once the person or company proposing the use of eminent domain shows there is a public interest.

The judge concluded the pipeline locations are reasonable and they are necessary for public use.

The company said relocating the 8-inch and two 12-inch pipelines would have cost $2 million.

The easements were renewed for 47 years.

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