An Oncor construction project performing a major transmission line upgrade demonstrates the danger of living near an easement owned by the power company. The upgrade is being made to an existing transmission line which runs between two electrical sub-stations, one located on Fairgrounds Road and the other near Midland International Air and Space port. Though many people own homes along the route, Oncor possesses an easement over their land, a status granting Oncor a superior legal right to use the properties. This right-of-way extends for a width of 50 feet and enables Oncor to remove any and all obstacles within the area that they see fit including trees and small buildings.
From Oncor’s point of view, “This is going to help provide stability to the entire system in Midland and surrounding areas so that we can bring power into where the demand is,” said Sue Mercer, a spokeswoman for Oncor. “We do recognize that it’s going to be a major project for us, and mostly because of its location — through the residential and commercial areas, it traverses the full width of Midland. It’s a project that’s needed, and our main goal is to keep the public safe and maintain reliability for our system.”
For affected residents however, these statements fail to capture the reality of their situation.
“We have a really beautiful backyard and we spend a lot of time out there,” said Rebeca Nicholson, a Midland resident. Regarding the construction noise and modifications to her property, “We’re not really sure we could live there hardly.”
“Everybody’s pretty upset,” said Henry Shaw, Nicholson’s 88 year-old neighbor “If my wife were able, I would probably [leave] too.”
Both Nicholson and Shaw expect significant devaluations of their properties and claim to know others who are experiencing worse. Home appraiser Perry Taylor agrees that home values will be adversely affected.
“There’s no blanket statement that could cover each individual’s scenario,” he said. “Some are going to be affected greatly.
A property owner is entitled to compensation for damages resulting from a taking of their property. However, in cases involving the construction and upgrading of a transmission line within an existing easement, a property owner should look to the language of the easement to determine if any recourse is possible. The terms of an individual easement may specifically provide for recovery of damages for construction upgrades. Moreover, actions by the easement holder beyond the terms of the easement agreement or outside the property boundaries of the easement could require Oncor to pay just compensation plus damages.