An interesting article on oxy.com discusses how the threat of eminent domain mobilizes conservatives to oppose pipelines as they stand up for property rights.
Carolyn Reilly, co-owner of a farm on the proposed route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, writes in the April 30, 2017, Roanoke Times, “To be clear: it is NOT only environmentalists who oppose these pipelines and support a leader with a position against them, but also conservative farmers, landowners, and homesteaders who often feel helpless and hopeless at the pending possibility of their land being taken by private corporations through the power of eminent domain. These proposed pipelines threaten more than our environment, they may rob us of our livelihoods and way of life in rural Virginia.
“If the MVP is approved and constructed, our farming operation in Franklin County would collapse. The use of our property would be limited and we couldn’t sustain our small family farm business. After construction our land would be exposed to chemicals and sprays used to minimize vegetation. Our situation is one of many fellow landowners who face the same concerns we do everyday: a 42-inch gas pipeline puts our land, property values and water supplies at risk.”
Reilly is clear about how the pieces fit together – for both the MVP and the ACP. If the Governor of Virginia exercises his responsibility to be sure the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) protects water resources through section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act and through the requirement and enforcement of sediment and erosion control measures, that enforcement would almost certainly prohibit damaging construction on steep slopes and through waterways, and would ultimately protect farm businesses from collapsing and property from being seized in eminent domain.
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.
Thomas Hadwin, who spoke on February 12, 2017, in both Buckingham and Nelson Counties, has kindly shared his PowerPoint presentation from the workshop in Buckingham, “New Pipelines: Do We Need Them?” (the answer is no!), as well as two other documents he has written, “Purpose and Need for the ACP,” and “The ACP in a Nutshell.” In “The ACP in a Nutshell” he carefully refutes Dominion’s inflated claims of local economic benefits, reminds us that, “The Department of Energy states that adequate capacity exists in the existing pipeline system to serve this region throughout the multi-decade planning horizon of their studies,” notes that, if built, “ratepayers would pay higher transport fees for the ACP compared to existing pipelines,” and concludes that eminent domain requires landowners “to sacrifice their individual interest in order to serve the greater public good. In this case, the greater public good is better served both economically and environmentally by using existing pipelines.”
For additional information and resources by Thomas Hadwin, see “Atlantic Coast Pipeline: A Question of Need.” This story map posted by Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition includes detailed charts and information.
Dominion is fond of proclaiming their concern for landowners – if push comes to shove will Dominion put their money where their mouth is? Will our legislators? Thanks to Friends of Wintergreen for organizing this action!
URGENT — HELP YOUR NEIGHBORS FIGHT PIPELINE TYRANNY
If you live in one of the following Virginia counties, you and your neighbors could be victims of eminent domain abuse UNLESS YOU ACT NOW:
Augusta, Bath, Brunswick, Buckingham, Chesapeake, Craig, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Franklin, Giles, Greensville, Highland, Montgomery, Nelson, Nottoway, Pittsylvania, Prince Edward, Roanoke, Southhampton, Suffolk
Governor McAuliffe and Virginia legislators must require that the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines use Virginia (and not Federal) courts for any eminent domain proceedings against Virginia landowners, farmers, businesses, and families. Virginia courts give landowners more rights.
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Watch the trailer for Pipeline Fighters, a 98 minute feature length documentary, featuring Jane Kleeb, the XL pipeline killer, and Lorne Stockman of Oil Change International, a watch dog group, and Mekasi Camp-Horinek, a protest coordinator for Standing Rock in N.D. – plus specific footage on the ACP and MVP, and appearances by some familiar local pipeline fighters.
Read about the making of the film and the film’s director in this Roanoke Times article.