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.