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News9 Special Assignment: Utopia East Pipeline

Landowners are concerned about the path of the Utopia east pipeline in Harrison County. (WTOV)

The oil and gas boom in the valley is well documented. Some people have even gotten rich off the resources.

But a new proposed pipeline -- Utopia East Pipeline -- is raising some questions with the people most affected by it. It's an intricate pipeline, spanning hundreds of miles and affecting hundreds of eastern Ohio families and landowners in the process.

"Fifteen-to-20 years ago, Ohio wouldn't have even been in the picture," said Allen Fore, vice president of public affairs at Kinder Morgan. "Today it's almost at the center of the energy universe in the United States."

Cadiz is in the foreground of that picture. The seat of Harrison County is the projected starting point of a 240-mile natural gas pipeline.

But those in the path of the pipe are hesitant.

"What I sign today is going to affect somebody 85 years from now, and I don't know what that is," land owner Don Cassidy said.

While there are some unknown answers, a few things are for certain. It's a $500 million project put together by Kinder Morgan, a giant in the oil and gas industry.

The line will transport an ethane-propane mix all the way to Canada, where it will be used as feedstock for producing plastics.

"There will probably be 1,000 families impacted by this pipeline, and they will be permanently impacted," Attorney Michael Braunstein said.

While families in the Ohio Valley will be impacted, they will also be compensated for their land. All of the details inked in an easement.

"Those types of agreements are important for landowner protection, and we like them too because it offers a very open and transparent process," Fore said.

It's transparency both land owners and lawyers feel is essential.

"If you don't know what's in the agreement, you're dead," Cassidy said.

"You've gotta make sure that the easement terms are what you need, and that the compensation is fair, because this is your one shot at getting it right," Braunstein said.

While some land owners sign off on the agreement, there are others who don't, leaving eminent domain as the company's only option.

And for that to apply, the company has to prove the pipeline is for the greater good.

"The several hundred construction jobs that will be part of it - Ohio union locals -- will be organizing the workforce for that, which means Ohioans will go to work on this project," Fore said.

While many landowners have already negotiated an easement with the company, some are still up in the air.

"If they see something that doesn't smell, or sound or look right, give us a call," Fore said. "Give the emergency responders a call, and we'll respond accordingly."

One land owner wanted to know what he is allowed to do on the property once the pipeline goes in. While all those specifics are negotiated in an easement, Fore claims there are very few restrictions

"You can't have a structure on top of the right of way," he said. "Long rooted trees are not permissible, but most anything else you can do."

With construction comes crews and equipment, another land owner was worried that would infringe upon the rest of his land.

"Nobody is going to be driving or walking on to a land owner's property off of that 100-foot right-of-way unless it's pre-approved, pre-negotiated, and compensated for in many cases," Fore said.

Initial construction on the pipeline is expected to begin in November of this year and projected to be fully serviceable in January 2018.

As of right now, Kinder Morgan is in the process of acquiring the land needed, through negotiations with land owners.

Not all of the negotiations are going smoothly; however, as Kinder Morgan is currently facing a lawsuit from 13 plaintiffs in Harrison County.

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