Category Archives: Court cases

Wintergreen Property Owners Plan to Sue ACP


Press Release from Friends of Wintergreen, November 20, 2017:  Nearly 1,000 Wintergreen Property Owners Plan To Sue the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  Contact Jonathan Ansell, 804-405-1109

Friends of Wintergreen announced today that nearly 1,000 Wintergreen property owners, a number that is growing daily, plan to individually sue the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for damages to their property if the pipeline company seizes land used by the Wintergreen community. These actions follow a rare split-decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve the 600-mile, 42-inch compressed natural gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and grant the private pipeline company the power to use eminent domain to seize private land, including 7-acres of common land at Wintergreen.

“By approving the ACP, FERC effectively guarantees a 14% profit (or over $200 million a year) to the Dominion-managed pipeline company, a return that comes at the expense of many unwilling, uncompensated or under-compensated Virginia landowners”. In the case of Wintergreen property owners, the land to be seized by the pipeline will come with no compensation to individual property owners, but significant inconvenience and damage to their property values” said Jonathan Ansell, Chairman of Friends of Wintergreen, Inc.

Most of the individual “inverse condemnation” lawsuits will be managed by the Norfolk-based eminent domain law firm, Waldo & Lyle PC. According to Brian Kunze, Partner at the firm: “Under the US Constitution and Virginia law, no private property can be damaged or taken for public use without just compensation to the owner. If a property owner does not receive compensation for the taking of land, as is the case for nearly 4,000 individual Wintergreen owners, these owners are entitled to obtain compensation under a legal procedure known as “inverse condemnation”. We intend to file these cases the day after the ACP takes Wintergreen property”.

Separately, Friends of Wintergreen and the Wintergreen Property Owners Association (WPOA) filed a legal action with FERC to halt the construction of the pipeline until a full rehearing is completed. “We believe that FERC’s approval of the pipeline was arbitrary, capricious and not supported by the substantial evidence and alternatives we and others have provided”, said Jay Roberts, Executive Director of the WPOA. “On October 13, the FERC Commission voted 2 to 1 to approve the ACP, a rare split-decision in a federal agency where 98% of votes are unanimous”, noted Ansell. The dissenting opinion was issued by a Commissioner with seven years experience on the FERC Commission; the two Commissioners who approved the ACP were each on the job for about 60 days.

Friends of Wintergreen, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to protecting and enhancing the value, beauty, integrity, and sustainability of the Wintergreen VA area.

Legal Representation

On November 16, 2017, the Charlotte Observer reported that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is ready to start seizing private property early next year to start construction on the 600-mile ACP, beginning legal condemnation proceedings against holdout property owners as soon as it has received all state and federal permits.

In late October, the Mountain Valley Pipeline sued landowners to gain pipeline easements through eminent domain.  On November 16, 2017, a federal judge slowed MVP’s effort to fast-track one of two lawsuits against hundreds of landowners seeking to use eminent domain to gain easements for construction over the more than 300-mile route across West Virginia and Virginia.  Judge  John Copenhaver indicated “he is going to press MVP attorneys to personally serve all of the landowners with the lawsuits against them, and demand detailed explanations if the company ultimately says it couldn’t find all of the owners and wanted to rely on a public notice in the newspaper instead. ‘The court wants these people located,’ Copenhaver said. ‘The court is expecting due process.'”

Most of the landowners on the ACP route in Nelson County have legal representation. If you do not, email us at friendsofnelson@gmail.com and we will give you the information you need to protect yourself and your land.  (And please take a look at our Eminent Domain page.)  We will continue to stand up and support and back up landowners threatened by the ACP. This is not a done deal. We are still here and ready to help!

MVP Sues Landowners for Easements Through Eminent Domain

The October 27, 2017, Roanoke Times reported that the Mountain Valley Pipeline has sued landowners to gain pipeline easements through eminent domain. ““Mountain Valley Pipeline filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday in Roanoke against hundreds of landowners in Virginia to initiate acquiring easements for the project across private properties through eminent domain. Both Maureen Brady, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, and Chuck Lollar, a Norfolk-based lawyer who specializes in eminent domain, said filing suit against multiple landowners and properties at once is standard procedure for similar projects. Lollar said one reason to file condemnation proceedings against hundreds of landowners at once ‘is to seek one court order granting entry to begin construction, applicable to all property owners who have refused to sign easements, since they would be the remaining obstacle to commencement of construction of the pipeline.’ … The condemnation action targets properties where Mountain Valley has failed to negotiate with landowners an acceptable price for an easement. Many property owners opposed to the pipeline have refused even to enter such negotiations.”

Bold Alliance issued the following press release on October 27, 2017. (Contact Carolyn Reilly, Bold Alliance, 540-488-4358, carolyn@boldalliance.org)

Virginia Landowners Sued in Federal Court by Companies Seeking Eminent Domain Authority for Mountain Valley Fracked Gas Pipeline: Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC sues landowners seeking eminent domain authority to take their private property for a for-profit fracked gas pipeline.

Rocky Mount, VA — Over 300 Virginia landowners have been sued in federal court by Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, which is seeking to use eminent domain authority to take land against property owners’ wishes for its proposed fracked gas pipeline that threatens Virginia’s waterways.

The eminent domain condemnation claims against landowners come in the wake of the lawsuit filed against FERC and Mountain Valley Pipeline by Bold Alliance and more than 50 landowners that challenges the use of eminent domain for private gain by Mountain Valley Pipeline — as well as the proposed Atlantic Coast fracked gas pipeline.

Carolyn Reilly, an organizer with Bold Alliance whose family’s Four Corners Farm in Rocky Mount is on the proposed MVP route, was among those who were served by Mountain Valley Pipeline and now face court hearings and seizure of their land through eminent domain:

“This latest strong-arm tactic of MVP, filing a lawsuit against individual property owners, abuses our rights as citizens of the United States. My family, along with more than 300 Virginia landowners, have stood strong and resisted the greed of a private corporation’s attempts to intimidate and bully us,” said Carolyn Reilly, landowner on the proposed MVP route and organizer with Bold Alliance. “We look forward to the court hearings as they will further prove the negligence, irresponsibility and greed of a for-profit corporation seeking eminent domain for private gain. I, and many other landowners, stand firm in our commitment to preserve and protect the water and defend the land for future generations. It is time for us as citizens to stop corporate greed from attempting to control our lives.”

While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently voted 2-1 to issue a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Mountain Valley Pipeline project, the company still requires a 401 Clean Water Act permit from the Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality, and landowners and opponents of the proposed fracked gas pipeline continue to urge Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Northam and DEQ Director David Paylor to reject these projects, which are abusing eminent domain for private gain, and threatening our land and water.

States are empowered to reject these pipeline applications utilizing the clean water act. Governor Cuomo has done so in New York, and Governors McAuliffe, Cooper and Justice can do so in Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia, too.

The Fight Continues


Pipeline opposition and challenges continue, despite FERC’s October 13, 2017, rubber stamp approval of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, issued with a highly unusual dissenting opinion by Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur. The FERC permit is not the final word on the projects. VA, NC and WV must still issue environmental permits. The NC Department of Environmental Quality recently declined to issue water quality, soil erosion control permits for the project, requesting additional information from the pipeline. The WV Department of Environmental Protection recently vacated and remanded their water quality certification, saying they want to reevaluate the complete application. The VA Department of Environmental Quality has yet to make a decision, and will hold public hearings in December. Citizens still have the opportunity (and the responsibility) to express their concerns to DEQ (and may sign a petition to protect Virginia waters here).

The Wild Virginia Web page has concrete suggestions on how you can continue the fight against the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines.

“It’s only being built because Dominion and Duke Energy will make $2 billion off of it even if it never comes into service,” said Friends of Nelson President Ernie Reed when interviewed at the Nelson Farmer’s Market the morning after the FERC announcement. “We only need one Federal Agency or one State Agency to do the right thing or one judge to force them to do the right thing to stop this runaway train.”

Greg Buppert, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, called the FERC order a long-anticipated “rubber stamp” and said his organization intends to challenge the decision. “The utilities involved in the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline claim utility customers will save money, when in fact this pipeline will drive up ratepayers’ bills – and cause harm to national forests and to rivers and streams while threatening to commit our states to fossil fuels for decades to come,” he says.

Bold Alliance and more than 50 landowners, have a federal lawsuit challenging the use of eminent domain for private gain and intend to continue the fight for property rights in the court system.

Carolyn Reilly, impacted landowner and Pipeline Fighter with Bold Alliance, said, “Thousands of landowners and citizens have stood strong in the battle to defend land, protect water and preserve communities. FERC has, yet again, pulled out its rubber stamp and permitted two more risky, fracked gas pipelines that put our homes, our land, our water, and our communities at risk. But, our fight is far from over. The ACP and MVP are not a done deal; between the Bold lawsuit against FERC and water permits needed from West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, we, the people, press on and persevere to defend and protect what is sacred.”

In an interview with WVTF, Reilly said, “I think it’s been an amazing thing to see people coming together despite many differences and political affiliations. This is not a partisan issue, this fight. There’s environmentalists and there’s conservative property rights activists that are united in this fight to protect our homes, our lands, the whole Appalachia, and especially water.”

Yes, we are all still here, and the fight goes on!

Conservation Groups Argue Dominion Conflict of Interest

On October 12, 2017, attorneys for the Sierra Club and Appalachian Mountain Advocates (Appalmad) filed an appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court to ensure that a deal for fracked gas shipping capacity is reviewed for conflicts of interest. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) presents a major conflict of interest because the companies that own the pipeline, including Dominion Energy, also own the utilities that have purchased shipping capacity on the pipeline. These arrangements between corporate affiliates encourage their parent companies to build unnecessary infrastructure – like the ACP – that would likely not be built if those companies had to rely on independent purchasers. As a result of this inter-affiliate agreement, Dominion stands to reap major profits on the ACP, which will be paid for by its customers through increased electricity bills. The Sierra Club and Oil Change International recently released The Art of the Self-Deal, a report detailing how these arrangements work. Virginia’s Affiliates Act requires the State Corporation Commission to review agreements like these.

Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Director Kelly Martin said, “The fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not only dirty and dangerous, it’s also expensive and unnecessary: Dominion is making a deal with itself for pipeline capacity to justify building a project we just don’t need. Fortunately, Virginia passed the Affiliates Act for exactly this type of situation. The State Corporation Commission must, under that law, review Dominion’s inter-affiliate agreement before it can take effect and determine whether or not it is in the public interest. This review process is not optional, so we’re taking this case to the Virginia Supreme Court.”