Nelson County Landowners Respond to Pipeline Lawsuits

Friends of Nelson has released a statement to the press regarding the legal response of Nelson County landowners to the lawsuits filed against them by Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC.  Legal counsel for these Nelson County families has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuits, based on the fact that (1) Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the party that is suing the landowners in question, did not send any notices of intent to enter for surveying (the notices were sent by Dominion Transmission, which is a wholly separate corporation) and thus has no right to access landowner property, and (2) the survey statute is unconstitutional under the Virginia constitution.

NBC 29 covered the story, Nelson Co. Families Fighting Pipeline Lawsuit, on January 23rd:  “Landowners in Nelson County are pushing back against Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC for trying to survey their land for the Dominion natural gas pipeline…. Five Nelson Co. couples are filing motions to dismiss a lawsuit from ACP. The company is suing landowners who won’t give them permission to survey their land for the pipeline project. Landowners say Dominion sent notices to survey their land, but ACP did not. Therefore, they argue ACP doesn’t have the right to sue them.  ‘There are many, many impacts that this pipeline will have, not just to our particular piece of land but to the county in general,’ said Corry Andrews, Nelson Co. landowner. ‘We feel very comfortable fighting it legally, and with any means that we can at this point.’  Landowners also say the survey statute is unconstitutional because it allows for taking private property without providing any compensation.”

To read the Friends of Nelson Press Release in full, please visit our Press Releases page.

Rally in Richmond: Showing up Matters!

richmond rallyThe No-Pipeline Rally in Richmond today received great coverage in the press.  The story was picked up by the Associated Press and appears in a number of news publications:  The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Virginian-Pilot, The Daily Progress, The News & Advance, The News Leader, NBC 29, WSLS 10, and the Charlottesville Newsplex, among many others!  This is why just showing up really matters–now so many more people in the Richmond area and beyond will learn about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, its many negative impacts, and landowner rights.

Be sure to check out the Richmond-Times Dispatch and The News & Advance stories about the rally, as they also include excellent video coverage of the rally!

From The Huffington Post, Opponents of Proposed Gas Pipeline Rally at Virginia Capitol:  “Environmentalists and western Virginia property owners rallied Friday at the state Capitol in opposition to a proposed 550-mile natural gas pipeline.  Richmond-based Dominion Resources is partnering with other utilities to build the $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would cross the Blue Ridge Mountains to deliver gas from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.  Friday’s rally was organized by the Sierra Club and Friends of Nelson, a group of property owners in Nelson County who live along the proposed pipeline route.  Environmentalists say the project would contribute to global warming because of the extraction method, known as hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ used to get the gas out of the ground.  Calling climate change an ‘immense environmental crisis,’ Kirk Bowers of the Sierra Club said the project would worsen sea-level rise and flooding in Hampton Roads.  Property owners whose land would be crossed by the pipeline say the utilities are trampling on their property rights.  Joanna Salidis of Nelson County, a landowner in the pipeline’s path, decried what she called Dominion’s ‘bullying’ tactics.  ‘You can imagine our horror when Dominion came and told us they could cut our trees and drain our wetlands and blast through our rivers,’ she said…. The protesters urged support for legislation introduced this week in the General Assembly that would make it more difficult for the project to proceed.  The measure, introduced by Republican state Sen. Emmett Hanger of Augusta County and co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Creigh Deeds of Bath County, would repeal a 2004 law that allows interstate natural gas companies to do testing and surveying on private property without the consent of the owner.”

SB 1338 Receives Praise from the Press

SB 1338, the Virginia Senate bill introduced by Senators Hanger and Deeds that would repeal the 2004 provision allowing natural gas companies to conduct surveys without permission, has been praised in the press for its support of landowner rights.  The News Leader issued an editorial praising Senator Hanger’s “good work for property rights and transparency” through his introduction of Senate bills SB 1338, SB 1166, and SB 1169.  Surprisingly, Marcellus Drilling News, a pro-pipeline, pro-fracking publication, also chimed in with support for SB 1338, stating that it was “not in favor of access without permission,” as such behavior works against community goodwill.  Clearly, SB 1338 is a bill on which people of all sides of this issue can agree.  Surveying a landowner’s property without permission is not only a violation of landowner rights, but is also bad business.

From The News Leader:  Emmett Hanger’s Triple Play.  Editorial.  “Our local state senators are trying to right a 2004 General Assembly wrong at the center of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline debate.  In doing so, Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, and Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Millboro, are not only taking on the ever-powerful Dominion Transmissions, but acting on behalf of private landowners who have been strong-armed by the utility’s lawsuits and threats of eminent domain.  This is what leadership looks like.  Hanger and Deeds have introduced S.B. 1338, a repeal of the measure that allows Dominion Transmissions, or any utility, to enter and survey private property without landowners’ permission…. We are pleased that Hanger has seen the light on this issue, and hope Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, and Del. Ben Cline, R-Lexington, will as well. They, too, voted in favor of the 2004 law. Del. Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, was not in the General Assembly at the time.”

From Marcellus Drilling News:  VA May Repeal Law Allowing Pipelines Access Without Permission.  “Accessing a landowner’s property without permission, and later (potentially) forcing that landowner to allow a pipeline across the property via eminent domain have never been supported by MDN. Neither, it seems, is it supported by other pro-drillers, especially those in Virginia. State Sen. Emmett Hanger from Augusta County, VA (located in the Shenandoah Valley on the western edge of VA) is a conservative, business-friendly and pro-drilling Republican…. Hanger is attempting to get a 2004 Virginia law repealed that allows access to private property without permission so Dominion (and others) can survey the property for pipeline routes. As Hanger points out, that kind of behavior is working against them in terms of community goodwill.”

Pipeline Threatens Historic Wingina Property

The Nelson County Times has published an in-depth story about Nelson County residents Andrew and Digna Gantt and their 277-year-old historic property in Wingina, which sits in the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  Rock Cliff, the Gantt’s home, has a history as an Indian settlement, a plantation, and an unofficial area of conservation and has weathered wars, wealth, poverty and Reconstruction.”  Now, it is threatened by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would run through the property, destroying 35 to 50 acres of trees and running through land that is rich with artifacts and history.

From the Nelson County TimesOwner of Historic Wingina Property Is Epitome of Pipeline Opposition.  “Rooted deep in nearly 300 years of rich family history, Andrew and Digna Gantt’s farm in Wingina has weathered wars, wealth, poverty and Reconstruction. It has been used as an Indian settlement, a plantation, and now as an unofficial area of conservation…. Gantt is steadfast in turning down [Dominion’s] request to access his property. ‘Their ‘invasion’ is potentially a lot more serious and its deleterious effects much longer lasting than Sheridan’s troops riding up on our back porch in 1865,’ he said…. when it comes to the passion of his family’s land and long history, Gantt said he would lay down in front of the bulldozers if the time comes. ‘I feel so strongly about this,’ he said. ‘It’s uncalled for and unjust. The pipeline is going through some 200 properties of people who have their lives established here. They can’t say no, it’s so hard to say no. It’s an enormous effort to say no.'”

Legislative Updates: Senator Deeds Co-Sponsors SB 1338, Delegate Dickie Bell Introduces HB 1696

Senator Creigh Deeds has signed on as a co-sponsor for SB 1338, the bill introduced by Senator Hanger that would repeal the 2004 provision that allows natural gas companies to survey without a landowner’s permission.  Please take the time to contact Senator Deeds (Phone: 804-698-752; Email: district25@senate.virginia.gov) to thank him for co-sponsoring this bill and listening to the concerns of his constituents.

Please call or email the members of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor and ask them to support SB 1338 to strengthen property rights in Virginia.  Contact information, including a list of email addresses that can easily be copied and pasted as a group into most email browsers, can be found here.

Delegate Dickie Bell has also introduced HB 1696, which is identical to SB 1166.  This bill curbs eminent domain abuse by making utilities subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  This bill needs support from the House Committee on Commerce and Labor.  Please call and email the members of this committee and ask them to support HB 1696!  Contact information for the members of this committee can be found here.

Rally Tomorrow at 12:00 pm at Bell Tower on Capitol Square, Richmond

Please come to the property rights/no pipeline rally in Richmond tomorrow and let your voices be heard.  Friends of Nelson is co-sponsoring this rally against the pipeline and to stand up for property rights with Free Nelson, the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Preserve NRV.  The rally will be held at Bell Tower on Capitol Square at noon. There will be speakers and music (including musicians Gene and Gayla Mills, who just released their protest song, “No Dominion Over Me”). At the conclusion of the rally, we’ll lobby legislators for the rest of the afternoon to support our cause.  This is an important event, so please plan to be there!

No Dominion Over Me

Virginia musicians Gene and Gayla Mills have written and recorded a beautiful protest song, “No Dominion Over Me,” in response to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Dominion’s assault on the property rights of Virginia landowners.  Their music video for the song features photos of the beautiful Virginia land and properties that are at risk, contrasted with images of natural gas pipeline construction, as well as scenes from rallies held to oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

To view more creative songs, stories, and videos created in opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, please visit our Songs, Stories, and Videos page.

Reminder: This Is the Last Week to Submit Comments to the Forest Service

This is the last week to submit comments to the Forest Service asking them to deny permission for Dominion to survey for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the George Washington National Forest. The deadline for public comments is January 23rd. There are three easy ways to submit comments to the Forest Service:

1.  You can send a comment to the Forest Service via the Friends of Nelson Web site, by clicking here.

2.  You can submit comments directly to the Forest Service through email (comments-southern-georgewashington-jefferson@fs.fed.us) or by mail:

USDA Forest Service
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
ATTN: Atlantic Coast Pipeline Survey Comments
5162 Valleypointe Parkway
Roanoke, VA 24019

When sending electronic comments, please note the name of the project in the subject line of the electronic mailing (i.e., Atlantic Coast Pipeline Survey Comments).

3.  You can also send a comment to the Forest Service via the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club’s online comment form.

Living in the Sacrifice Zone: The Story of Nelson County Residents John Ed and Ruth Purvis

Blue Virginia has featured the story of John Ed and Ruth Purvis, a Nelson County family whose land lies in the path of Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  The Purvis’s story shows how property rights go hand in hand with environmentalism–there is no love like the love of family and home, no fiercer desire than to protect the place recognized as nurturing yourself and your family. Our government’s ability to sacrifice our homes for profit goes hand in hand with the large-scale lack of recognition in our culture that ALL our lives depend on property.

From Blue Virginia:  Living in Dominion’s Sacrifice Zones.  “At the end of a country lane in Nelson County, Virginia, you will find one of Dominion’s sacrifice zones.   Approaching the home , built in 1904, there are acre upon acre of fertile rolling pasture; in the background, you see only steep mountain slopes. The views are commonplace in this area, but are breathtaking still.  The 400-acre property is owned by John Ed Purvis and his wife, Ruth.  John Ed has lived in Nelson his entire life on this farm with the exception of the four years he spent in the Air Force.  His wife Ruth grew up in Nelson too…in the Tyro and Roseland areas of Nelson County. He and Ruth married in 1954 and will celebrate their 61st anniversary in February.  They have four children, and they both worked outside the home, while farming the land, and raising their family.  John Ed is the seventh generation of his family to own and farm this land.”

“John Ed and Ruth, just as their ancestors were, have been good stewards of the land, raising cattle, growing hay and harvesting timber.  One day last May, John Ed and Ruth received a certified letter from Dominion Resources telling them a pipeline was coming through.  Dominion needed to survey the Purvis farm because it wanted to construct its 42″ natural gas pipeline on their family farm.  John Ed and Ruth were surprised like other Nelsonians and were even more surprised when they learned about a law the Virginia General Assembly passed.  ‘This law they passed in Richmond in 2004 allowing survey without permission isn’t right.  It has gotten everybody riled up,’ he stated.   He continued, ‘Eminent domain is for building schools and roads–things that benefit the community.’ The couple is keenly aware they and other landowners, nor the community will receive any benefit from Dominion’s attempted land grab to build its pipeline. “

Senator Hanger Introduces SB 1338, A Bill That Would Repeal a Natural Gas Company’s Ability to Survey Without Landowner Permission

Senator Emmett Hanger Jr. introduced SB 1338 to the Virginia Senate this week.  This bill would repeal the 2004 provision that allows natural gas companies to enter a landowner’s property to conduct a survey without the landowner’s permission. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor.  Please take the time to thank Senator Hanger (district24@senate.virginia.gov) for introducing the bill and to write to the members of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor asking them to support SB 1338.  Please also tell them to support SB 1166, another bill introduced by Senator Hanger that would allow the Freedom of Information Act to be used in eminent domain situations.

Please call and email the members of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor:

John C. Watkins (804) 698-7510
Charles J. Colgan (804) 698-7529
Richard L. Saslaw (804) 698-7535
Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (804) 698-7503
Walter A. Stosch (804) 698-7512
Frank W. Wagner (804) 698-7507
Stephen D. Newman (804) 698-7523
Mark D. Obenshain (804) 698-7526
Richard H. Stuart (804) 698-7528
Jeffrey L. McWaters (804) 698-7508
William M. Stanley, Jr. (804) 698-7520
Kenneth C. Alexander (804) 698-7505
John A. Cosgrove (804) 698-7514
A. Benton Chafin (804) 698-7538
Roslyn R. Dance (804) 698-7516

Copy and paste and send one email!

district10@senate.virginia.gov, district29@senate.virginia.gov,
district35@senate.virginia.gov, district03@senate.virginia.gov,
district12@senate.virginia.gov, district07@senate.virginia.gov,
district23@senate.virginia.gov, district26@senate.virginia.gov,
district28@senate.virginia.gov, district08@senate.virginia.gov,
district20@senate.virginia.gov, district05@senate.virginia.gov,
district14@senate.virginia.gov, district38@senate.virginia.gov,
district16@senate.virginia.gov

A number of bills that would support landowner rights and increase transparency for natural gas infrastructure projects have been introduced to the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates this week.  This article by Watchdog.org profiles a number of these bills.