Did you know that if Virginia signs off on the water certificate for the ACP and MVP pipelines, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can allow the pipeline developers to seize the land of private citizens by eminent domain to bury these pipelines? Did you know that the landowners still have to pay property taxes on that seized land, often a 120′ wide easement, on which no tree can ever be planted, no structure can ever be built, and no fully loaded truck (including a fire truck) can ever cross? Did you know that environmentalists and Tea Party libertarians, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats have come together to protect our right to own our land and say no to land grabs for private greed, not public need?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
Nearly six hundred Nelson residents heard Dominion representative Emmett Toms use the threat of eminent domain in August 2014 at the public meeting with the Nelson County Board of Supervisors and Dominion personnel. His remark was something along these lines: “We don’t like to use eminent domain, but we will if we have to.”
On October 27, 2017, the Roanoke Times reported that, “Mountain Valley sues landowners to gain pipeline easements and access through eminent domain.” The story described how “Mountain Valley Pipeline filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday [October 24, 2017] in Roanoke against hundreds of landowners in Virginia to initiate acquiring easements for the project across private properties through eminent domain.” The lawsuit includes landowners in both Virginia and West Virginia, and, according to coverage in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, “The Virginia complaint lists more than 300 separate pieces of property — with the property descriptions taking up 192 pages of a 196-page complaint — and the West Virginia filing lists more than 140 separate property parcels. ‘Condemnation is necessary because MVP has been unable to negotiate mutually agreeable easement agreements with the landowners,’ the MVP lawyers said in both of their complaints.”
In anticipation of possible court proceedings by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline against property owners on the proposed ACP route, we offer information based on suggestions originally prepared by Preserve Montgomery County for landowners on the proposed MVP route.
- If you are an impacted landowner and have not yet hired an expert eminent domain attorney, we urge you to do so ASAP. Impacted landowners include those whose property the ACP proposes to cross as well as those on whose property the ACP wants to build access roads or staging areas.
- To hire eminent domain counsel does NOT mean you’re “giving up the fight” – rather, it means you’re getting help to navigate it – you’re preparing for the time you may need to either negotiate or go to trial.
- If you hire an eminent domain lawyer:
- You don’t have to pay anything up front
- If it never comes to eminent domain, you will never pay them
- All of them charge a similar percentage of an eventual settlement (33% of the DIFFERENCE between the original written offer and the final written offer), so you never need to pay them out of pocket
Among the consequences of negotiating without experienced representation is the risk of being grossly under-compensated in an eventual settlement.
Eminent domain experts say that under federal court rules, landowners have 21 days from the date of service of papers on the landowner to file an “answer/response,” which is a reply in court challenging the ACP’s assertions of their right to take your property. This filing can be basic, but it must be done correctly and in timely fashion. Eminent domain lawyer Chuck Lollar, quoted in the Roanoke Times article, said, “a year could pass before all condemnation cases filed by Mountain Valley go to trial,” but landowners must still file their responses within 21 days.
OPPOSE “early entries.” Many landowners, through their attorneys, will object to “early entry” by the pipeline company or its subcontractors for ANY reason, including tree cutting. Don’t allow anyone associated with or hired by MVP/ACP to take your trees down or do any other “pre-construction activity.” Your attorney will make motions to stop ALL pre-construction activity including tree cutting. If you encounter tree cutters on your property or have questions about their presence on your neighbor’s land and their right to be there, call your attorney, your police or sheriff’s office, or simply call 911 and ask for law enforcement assistance.
Please refer to our Eminent Domain page for additional information on eminent domain and on eminent domain lawyers.
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, email@example.com)
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.
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 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.