Category Archives: Court cases

Supreme Court of Virginia Hands Pipeline Foes Small Victory, But Project Rolls On

The Washington Post reported on July 13, 2017, that “The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled … on two cases related to the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, handing opponents a minor victory but otherwise leaving the huge project unscathed. The court found in favor of a small group of landowners in Buckingham County who said pipeline surveyors had not provided adequate notice before entering their property. Survey crews have since changed their practice, though, to give more specific information about timing.

“The other case was potentially far more sweeping, as a landowner [Hazel Palmer] challenged whether an out-of-state utility has the right to enter property for surveys or to seize property under eminent domain. Although the natural gas pipeline project is largely controlled by Richmond-based Dominion Energy, the partnership that is building it is registered in Delaware.

“The court ruled that state law permits the survey work but said the plaintiffs had waited too late in the legal process to raise the issue of eminent domain, or property seizure. One expert said that could leave the door open for someone to pursue the eminent domain question, because the state constitution contains language prohibiting any outside company from exercising ‘the powers or functions of a public service enterprise.'”

Read the full article here.

DPMC Sues Virginia DEQ

On June 5, 2017, the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) filed suit against the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in state Circuit Court for the City of Richmond.

DPMC is asking the court to rule that DEQ issued a Clean Water Act section 401 Water Quality Certification for construction of utility lines, including natural gas pipelines, in state waters without legal authority to do so and without ensuring water quality would be protected.

DEQ’s general Water Quality Certification was issued on April 7, 2017 for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ general permit, named Nationwide Permit No. 12, that also addresses utility line impacts on streams and wetlands. A party cannot begin a project that affects waterbodies under the Corps of Engineers permit unless Virginia certifies that the work allowed under the federal permit will meet all state water protection requirements. DPMC asserts that DEQ failed to provide such assurances to properly protect Virginia waters and those who use them.

For more information:

DPMC Announcement
June 5th Petition to Richmond Circuit Court

News of the Week

The Supreme Court of Virginia heard two different cases on the legality of the state surveying statute, and the legality of the surveying itself, on properties that lie on the proposed route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). For details about the cases, see the Friends of Nelson Media Advisory released April 18, 2017. No decisions have yet been issued. News coverage of the hearings appeared in many places, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch and NBC TV.

More than 50 Democratic candidates running for Virginia House seats have pledged not to take contributions from Dominion. In the mean time, Dominion is betting big on two candidates for Governor, Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie.

News just in: In a letter dated April 17, 2017, Energy Transfer Partners (ETK) reported to FERC the spill of over 2 million gallons of drilling fluid onto wetlands in northern Ohio as part of a high density drilling (HDD) operation during constructing the Rover Pipeline. HDD is the process Dominion proposes to use for drilling under the Blue Ridge Parkway at Reeds Gap.  (See our story below on HDD at Reeds Gap.)  Construction on the Rover project began only a month ago, as it received its FERC certificate as one of the final actions before Commissioner Norman Bay resigned, denying FERC a quorum. Not an auspicious start!  See here for Ohio news coverage of the spill.

Supreme Court Cases Tomorrow

Tomorrow, April 19, 2017, the Virginia Supreme Court will hear two different cases on the legality of the state surveying statute, and the legality of the surveying itself, on properties that lie on the proposed route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). For details about the cases, see the Friends of Nelson Media Advisory released April 18, 2017, and for information about attending the hearings see our April 12, 2017, Web page post.

Virginia Supreme Court Hearings

On Wednesday April 19, 2017,
Hazel Palmer, an 83 year old widow, will stand up against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC before the Virginia Supreme Court.  (You must be in the courtroom and seated by 9 am.)  In 2004 the General Assembly enacted special legislation for interstate gas transmission companies granting them the special power to enter private property to study the land for interstate pipelines without the individual owner’s permission and without the companies paying just compensation.

Henry Howell, Mrs. Palmer’s lawyer, says, “Hazel Palmer is standing at her property line facing the army of economic and political power that Dominion has amassed against her, looking that army in the face, and saying, ‘You will not take my family land for your profits.’  The United States Constitution and the Virginia Constitution shield Hazel Palmer against the abuse of the power of the government and the abuse of the power of eminent domain that We the People have given our government. That shield protects each individual citizen and property owner. Let’s celebrate Hazel Palmer’s fight and the Constitutions that we have created and sustain for protecting Hazel Palmer and each of us under our Rule of Law.”

On the same docket, and scheduled after Mrs. Palmer’s case, Buckingham County landowners will have their appealed right-to-enter cases heard. In April, a Buckingham County judge granted ACP surveyors the right to enter private property without giving landowners notice of the specific date of entry, despite the fact that the pipeline builder has not been granted the right to eminent domain.

Come to show your support for Mrs. Palmer and for the Buckingham County landowners.

The Virginia Supreme Court is across 9th Street from the Capitol building.


Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League Sues to Block ACP Compressor Station in Buckingham County

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), along with its local chapter Concern for the New Generation (CNG), has filed a lawsuit opposing the recently granted special use permit for a natural gas compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) in Buckingham County.  BREDL and CNG are seeking to reverse the decision by the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors to permit construction of the compressor station in the residential and agricultural community of Union Hill.  The lawsuit contends that state zoning laws do not allow for a compressor station in an agricultural community.  The Buckingham County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a permit for the compressor station despite overwhelming opposition to the proposal by Buckingham County residents.

You can read more about BREDL’s lawsuit opposing the ACP’s compressor station at Blue Virginia