Category Archives: Easement Agreements

DO NOT Sign Easement Offers or Agreements!


Dominion Resources (d/b/a Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC) is soliciting easement agreements from owners of property through which the proposed pipeline will pass. DO NOT SIGN ANY EASEMENT AGREEMENT WITHOUT LEGAL ADVICE! Contact the Friends of Nelson Landowner Assistance Team, 434-260-3299 – leave us a phone number, someone from Friends of Nelson will reply to you quickly.

It is important that landowners (and everyone else!) recognize that Dominion is trying to obtain easements prior to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s ruling on whether the ACP even meets the standards for public need.

In the documents Friends of Nelson has seen, Dominion is actually asking for 50% more land than FERC said it would grant them IF the pipeline is approved. For example, they are proposing a 75-foot permanent right of way even though FERC stated in the DEIS that IF eminent domain is granted, FERC would only approve a 50’ permanent right of way. Anything larger than than could only be acquired through a consensual negotiation with the landowner. But many landowners don’t know that so they are at a disadvantage.

In addition, we’ve heard that Dominion is making low-ball offers that fall well below market values of the properties and are less than what the courts will eventually dictate if the company is forced to use the power of eminent domain. Of course, Dominion and their Doyle representatives do not point that out to unsuspecting landowners.

In order to accomplish its goals, Dominion is putting extreme pressure on some landowners. Representatives may call you and misrepresent the truth by warning you that this is the “best offer you’ll ever get,” or try to tempt you by suddenly making a “limited time” higher offer. They may even tell you that if you don’t sign now you will face unpleasant consequences (like forcible seizure) later on. None of these things are true; Dominion is trying to get rights to land without resorting to eminent domain, which would be a public relations disaster for them.

Dominion is counting on its corporate might to coerce agreements from people who do not know their rights. You are under no obligation to sign at this point, and we strongly advise you not to do so without counsel from your attorney. Immediately refer the company to your lawyer if you have one. If you don’t yet have one, contact us (434-260-3299) and we will direct you to a lawyer who will represent your interests at no out-of-pocket cost to you.

Lots of landowners have signed a pledge to stand together and refuse to sign easements with Dominion before eminent domain is declared. Local landowner Richard Averitt recently burned his easement proposal and we hope many other landowners will send Dominion a message by doing the same.

If you or anyone you know receive an easement proposal by mail or by phone, please contact us! Our Landowner Assistance Team is here to help you; leave us a phone number and someone from Friends of Nelson will reply to you quickly.

DO NOT BELIEVE Dominion or its representatives if they tell you, “Sign now for best terms!” DO NOT SIGN anything that Dominion sends you without proper legal advice.

Friends of Nelson Landowner Assistance Team

Friends of Nelson now has a Landowner Assistance Team to help you. You can call if you need help finding a lawyer, to let us know about interactions with Dominion or any of Dominion’s contractors or representatives, to share information about the easements you are offered, to find out about route changes on your land. And please keep us informed and aware of anything that happens related to your property. Call 434-260-3299 and leave a message and your phone number – someone from Friends of Nelson will respond quickly.

Burn Your Easement Offer!


Richard Averitt’s video shows him burning the letter he received from Dominion offering easement terms for the proposed ACP route behind his house and also through two acres of a 100-acre plot of land nearby. The terms of the offer to him: $13,180 to allow Dominion and the ACP to have permanent access to the 125-foot swathe through the center of his land that would be cleared to bury the 42-inch high pressure natural gas pipeline, land that would be kept cleared in the future, and whose use by him would be severely restricted. By Dominion’s own calculations, they would in the next 40 years make $1.6 million off the easement acres for which they offered $13,180.

Richard’s challenge: Burn Your Easement offer from Dominion and show Dominion and FERC that we won’t back down! (But please be careful not to start a forest fire! Better to burn in a bucket or fire pit.)

For news reports on Richard’s challenge see coverage in Blue Ridge Life and on Newsplex.

 

A Look at Easement Negotiations

The Roanoke Times has published an article, titled “Pipeline Easement Agreements Stir Questions, Strong Feelings,” that takes a close look at how easement agreements are proceeding for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).  The article reports that easement agreements have varied greatly, with compensation ranging from $1,000 to $356,880, and with some landowners signing company-drafted easement agreements without the help of legal counsel, while other landowners have hired experienced lawyers to help ensure that easement agreements protect their interests and fairly compensate them for losses in property values.  Some landowners have reported unfair and deceptive negotiation tactics on the part of Coates Field Service, an Oklahoma-based company handling easement acquisitions for the MVP, while others have reported fair dealings with the same company.  In Roanoke County, where opposition to the MVP has been strong, a majority of landowners continue to refuse to sign easement agreements. 

Of note in the article is lawyer Chuck Lollar’s advice to landowners facing the prospect of easement agreements and land seizure through eminent domain:  Lollar recommends that landowners approach easement agreements with caution and hire lawyers with experience in easement negotiations, “because the easement language MVP, ACP and other gas companies is using is broad, complicated and somewhat unlimited, and owners generally cannot understand the impact of these permanent easements on their property.”  For example, company-drafted easement agreements for the MVP have included provisions that would allow the company to use any and all parts of a landowner’s property for access during construction, operation, and maintenance of the pipeline and/or the terms by which the company could transfer the easement agreement to another company in the future.  An experienced lawyer can negotiate the terms of these provisions, protecting the landowner’s interests.  Lollar also states that landowners who try to negotiate easement agreements without the help of an experienced lawyer risk “being grossly under-compensated.”

Friends of Nelson continues to encourage landowners to hire experienced legal counsel and to refuse easement agreements for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).  For more information about easement agreements and eminent domain and how to hire an eminent domain lawyer (including contact information for several eminent domain lawyers), please see our Eminent Domain page

Continuing the Fight

Voices From Bath and Highlanders for Responsible Development co-sponsored a meeting in Highland County on February 1, 2017. at which speakers from five groups discussed the DEIS and offered ways for the many attendees to continue their involvement in the pipeline fight. Speakers included Greg Buppert, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center; Rick Webb, Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition program coordinator; Joe Lovett, attorney and founder of Appalachian Mountain Advocates; Lewis Freeman, Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance executive director; and Nancy Sorrells, with the Augusta County Alliance. The five agreed FERC had issued an incomplete and inaccurate DEIS.

Greg Buppert said the DEIS “glosses over important impacts. There’s missing information. There’s information that is deferred. But this is the type of impact statement that FERC produces.” He also said the need for the ACP has been exaggerated by a Dominion-created group of businesses. “Our first critical focus will be on the need for this project. There’s evidence that this project is not needed to meet the demand for natural gas. The arrangement of the entities, both building the pipeline and buying the gas, is that they’re all affiliates and subsidiaries of Dominion Resources. You don’t need an advanced degree in economics to know that’s not an arm’s length transaction that’s accurately reflecting the market.”

Rick Webb pointed out an obvious falsehood in the draft EIS. “Here, it says the engineering status and the permitting status are done,” he said. “Both of those are completely false. The engineering is far from being completed and none of the permitting is done.” He also said FERC had dismissed concerns about the potential for water contamination in cavernous karst terrain. “It’s not just where the pipeline crosses. Dominion is only looking at karst features within a certain distance on either side of this corridor. It’s everybody downstream — their water supply is at risk…. Once you get that mud into the subterranean karst system, it takes a long time for it to work its way out.” Webb urged residents downstream from any proposed pipeline activity to write to FERC before the April 6 deadline and request thorough study of potential karst water pollution.

Joe Lovett also urged everyone to file comments to FERC prior to April 6, and asked that they provide copies of their comments and other information to his organization, Appalachian Mountain Advocates. “If you have some data and you think FERC isn’t going to consider it, please let us know, because FERC is obligated to consider all of the relevant information. If they fail to consider it, that’s a flaw and that’s how we win.”

Nancy Sorrells urged landowners to not sell easements and discussed tactics being used by Dominion’s land agents. “This is not a done deal. The land agents who approach you will tell you it’s a done deal and you’d better sign. It’s your right — you don’t even have to talk to them. The spin they put out is pretty incredible. What they try to do is divide and conquer. They’ll say ‘Don’t tell your neighbor, but we’re going to give you a better deal.’ They’ll say ‘If you don’t sign, you’ll be flagged as troublemakers,’ or ‘We’ll just move the pipeline off your property because your neighbors have signed.’ ”

Sorrells distributed an Augusta Alliance information sheet that explains, “Dominion does not have the right to an easement through your property unless FERC grants it the power of eminent domain. That has not happened. Even if FERC ultimately grants Dominion the power of eminent domain (still far from certain), landowners have significant rights involving protection of their property to insure that they are paid the true value of the highest and best use of their property.”

The Augusta Alliance formed the Virginia Easement Action Team, a non-profit education and legal defense group, to assist landowners who do not wish to sell easements to Dominion. More information can be found at www.augustacountyalliance.org.

Virginia Outdoors Foundation Delays Decision on Easement Swap

After a day of public hearings on February 9, 2017, in which overwhelming opposition was heard to Dominion’s proposal to swap open land conservation easement properties to facilitate building the proposed ACP across existing easements, The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) held a brief closed door meeting and voted unanimously to defer consideration of Dominion’s application. Many speakers recognized the VOF Board’s difficult position, facing intense legal pressure from Dominion on one side, but intense opposition from the public, local Planning and Supervisor’s boards, landowners, and conservation groups on the other.

The Recorder has published an excellent overview of the VOF’s decision and the many comments made at the VOF’s meeting:  “Open-Space Foundation Tables Easement Decision.”