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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

TransCanada Land Agents Break Nebraska Real Estate Law

As TransCanada churns an ugly brown stripe across the prairie for the Keystone pipeline and gears up to negotiate Keystone XL, it has run afoul of Nebraska real estate laws. According to a July 2 Lincoln Journal-Star article (which strangely, I can only access in the Google cache), TransCanada's land agents from Universal Field Services were scurrying about the state acquiring easements for the next big pipeline when someone pointed out Universal's "highly skilled, experienced... dedicated professionals" didn't have Nebraska real estate licenses.

Oops. That's a violation of Nebraska law. Now the land agents have submit to a background check, take a course in Nebraska real estate rules, take a state test, pay an application... all of which they should have done before starting work for TransCanada.

Gee, anyone care to speculate as to how many other rules TransCanada might choose not to follow unless someone files a complaint?

Now I don't know the ins and outs of real estate license requirements in South Dakota and elsewhere, but here's a juicy thought: If an agent who "negotiated" a pipeline easement didn't have a real estate license, that agreement may be invalid. If you're a landowner who is none too pleased with the deal TransCanada has offered (or forced down your throat through eminent domain) to permanently reduce your property value, you might want to review your documents.

Not that I'd ever want to stand in the way of greedy foreign petrocapitalists trying to take our land at under-market prices just to inject another line of black heroin into fossil-fuel-addicted America. I'm just saying that when TransCanada comes knocking for your land, it might not hurt to ask to see that real estate license.
In case the Google cache goes wonky, here's the full text of the original article:

Keystone XL hits license snag
[Lincoln Journal-Star, 2009.07.03]

The Nebraska Real Estate Commission has launched an enforcement action against an Oklahoma company hired to acquire easements for a proposed petroleum pipeline.

Terry Mayrose, deputy director of enforcement for the commission, has issued two cease and desist orders against representatives of Universal Field Services, including its president.

The orders were issued in late June after Mayrose learned that easement agents did not hold Nebraska real estate licenses.

"We get tips and information about people in violation of the Nebraska Real Estate License Act," he said. "I'm not saying it's routine, but every now and then, we do get calls, we do an investigation and we do have to issue cease and desist orders."

Mayrose declined comment on the validity of any easements that might have been signed prior to the order, but, he said of Universal: "I have received a call from their attorney and it's my understanding they're going to comply."

The enforcement action involves TransCanada and its proposed Keystone XL pipeline, expected to pass through the Lincoln area west of York on its way from the oil sands of Alberta to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

TransCanada is already at work in Nebraska on the Keystone pipeline, which starts in the same part of Canada and comes through the Lincoln area just west of Seward.

TransCanada spokesman Jeff Rauh acknowledged the cease and desist orders and said the company was "absolutely committed to meeting all the state, local and federal requirements."

Mayrose said there are several steps to getting licensed.

"They would have to go through a criminal background check. They would have to make application for a license. They would have to get pre-license education. And they would have to pass a license application test and pay an appropriate fee before a license would be issued."

Dan Kramer, an Atkinson banker who also is a landowner along the proposed Keystone XL path and a leader of an organization called Landowners for Fairness, is monitoring the enforcement effort.

"We don't have any illusions that we’re going to stop it," Kramer said of the pipeline. "But we think everybody ought to play fair. And if they need a real estate license to do the kind of work they need to do in Nebraska, they ought to have it."

Kramer said the situation seems to raise a question about the validity of signed easements.

Greg Barton, legal counsel to the Real Estate Commission, said landowners are free to pursue the answer to that question on their own. "But the commission does not have the authority to review and invalidate contractual agreements." License Act," he said. "I'm not saying it's routine, but every now and then, we do get calls, we do an investigation and we do have to issue cease and desist orders."

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