Officials with Rockies Express Pipeline, a 1,663-mile long natural gas pipeline set to run from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to Monroe County, Ohio, say the project is on track to be built by the end of 2008.
Construction of the Putnam County leg of the pipeline could begin in early 2008, said Jim Thompson, a representative of REX who attended the meeting.
Right now the fate of the project lies in the hands of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) who will ultimately decide if the project is allowed to continue or goes down as a $4.4 billion mistake.
Thompson said the company is waiting on FERC to complete its preliminary assessment of the project.
Once that is complete, REX intends to officially file for permission to begin construction of the project.
Thompson said the company hopes to file its request with FERC in April and that they hope to have a final ruling from the feds by February of next year. Construction would commence a short time later.
The general public has had several opportunities during the preliminary phases of the project to comment and Thompson says more opportunities await.
Once REX officially files for the project, FERC will conduct more meetings for the public to ask questions and express concerns before making its final ruling.
Meanwhile, residents can keep up to date with the project in several ways.
FERC's website, www.ferc.gov, has a section called E-Library. Anyone interested in the project can go there and register their e-mail address to be placed on a mailing list for updates on the project.
Also they can search a series of documents about the project that are kept within the online library. Users will be prompted to enter a docket number.
The docket number for the REX pipeline project is PF06-30.
Another option is to call REX directly at 1-866-566-0066. Callers need to follow the automated prompts and will be connected to a company representative who can answer their questions about the pipeline.
E-mail users can go to the REX website, www.rexpipeline.com, and register their e-mail address to get more information as well.
Thursday night's meeting was sponsored by the Indiana Farm Bureau and Indiana Ag Law Center and was one of several similar meetings recently conducted around the state about the project.
The primary reason for the meeting was to educate landowners about the so-called "Agricultural Impact Mitigation Plan" that REX has agreed to follow.
The plan is meant to ensure that farmers who are forced to sell their land for the project are given the best deal possible and that the project has a minimal impact on their land.
Farm Bureau attorney Justin Schneider said landowners should plan to meet with the REX land agent and actually walk the ground to ensure their concerns are addressed. He said farmers should tell REX where their drainage tiles are located as well as any other concerns about the property.
"You need to let them know ahead of time," Schneider said.
Issues that farmers are concerned with include whether REX returns the nutrient-rich topsoil back to the surface once the pipeline is buried, what will happen to existing drainage tiles that get broken during the pipeline installation, what will be done for erosion control while the trench for the pipeline is being dug, and will REX come back to repair any long-term damage or problems that result from the pipeline's installation.
Indianapolis attorney Kit Earle, who was on hand at the meeting to advise landowners on dealing with the pipeline company, said the best way to ensure these questions are answered is to "get it in writing."
Earle urged landowners to read the agreement carefully before signing the deal to purchase their land.
He said landowners should pay close attention to the price that REX is offering for the property, the depth they plan to bury the pipeline, the product they plan to transport through the pipeline and other issues.
He also said the agreement should be very specific and include a requirement that if for some reason, REX ceases to operate its pipeline in the future, the easements granted by the landowners will revert back to the landowner.
Earle guessed that landowners could be approached as early as this spring about the sale agreement.
For questions about the agricultural impact mitigation plan, contact your local Farm Bureau office.