Category Archives: Eminent Domain

Please submit comments about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Restoration Plan! (Docket #CP15-554-009)

Earlier this year, ACP submitted a Restoration Plan to FERC, delineating how the company proposes to clean up the mess its pipeline project had left behind and asking for a year-long extension to the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity so that it can do that work.

There are many problems with the proposed Restoration Plan. In addition to having significant environmental deficiencies the plan does absolutely nothing to restore landowners’ full
property rights.

FERC has opened up a new “Scoping Period” to allow the public to comment on ACP’s
Restoration Plan.

COMMENTS MUST BE SUBMITTED NO LATER THAN Friday, April 16, 2021 at 5:00pm.

Friends of Nelson encourages all our supporters to submit comments urging FERC to deny ACP’s Certificate Extension request unless the deficiencies in the current plan are corrected.

To learn more about some of the Environmental problems with their plan, we have prepared this summary. If you want more detail, please check out the letter that the Southern Environmental Law Center submitted to FERC a few weeks ago.

A summary of the Easement Release issue, can be found here as well as some bulleted “ talking points ”. For more detail, please see the extensive comments that the Friends of Nelson recently submitted to FERC.

If you wish to use FERC’s e-Comment process to submit short comments (up to 6,000
characters), go to https://ferconline.ferc.gov/QuickComment.aspx and fill out the form. FERC will e-mail you a link within a few minutes which you can use to submit your comment.

If you want to write longer comments using the e-File process, and/or you wish to formally become an Intervenor in this proceeding (we especially encourage landowners with easements on their property to become Intervenors), we have put together a detailed Guide to help you do either or both of those things

NOTE: The Docket Number to use (for both eComments and eFiling) is:

CP15-554-009

Oil and Gas companies are making old pipelines the landowner’s problem.

From Popular Science. In the US private residents end up footing the bill to prevent further eyesores and pollution. March 10, 202. 

There are some 3 million miles of natural gas pipelines buried in the US. More than half of all gas transmission lines in the country were installed before 1970, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration. Those pipelines have an average lifespan of 50 years. And it’s not just old pipelines that are set to go out of service. Younger pipelines are also at risk of falling into disuse as the power sector comes to rely less on natural gas in favor of wind, solar and batteries.


No clearer sign exists that that bridge has been crossed than the cancellation of several high profile natural gas pipeline projects in the last year, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Constitution Pipeline. What does that mean for the millions of miles of gas pipelines that are already in the ground?


The most comprehensive data on abandoned pipelines comes from Canada. In the 1980s, the Canadian government began an extensive study of abandoned pipelines, which identified a slew of serious risks to leaving them in place. Sinkholes could form as pipelines corroded and collapsed. Leftover fossil fuels, or the cleaning agents used to clear out lines, could leak out into the surrounding soil or water. Aging lines under lakes or rivers could carry water where it’s not wanted. Empty pipelines could also become slightly buoyant, relative to soil, and rise to the surface, where landscaping and signage marking a pipeline’s path is rarely maintained after it has been retired.


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) can order a pipeline company to remove a line that’s not in use, says Carolyn Elefant, an energy and eminent domain attorney, but it doesn’t always do so.


Pipeline companies have ample incentive to leave pipelines in the ground. Removal is expensive and requires heavy equipment, permits and environmental reviews. And pipelines laid before 1980 often have the added feature of an asbestos coating that must be dealt with. It can cost almost as much to get a pipeline out of the ground as it costs to put it in the ground.

Friends of Nelson Asks FERC to Order Release of “Zombie” Pipeline” Easements

Friends of Nelson, a non-profit organization originally formed to oppose the now-cancelled Atlantic Coast Pipeline has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to order Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC to release private landowners from the easements it obtained to cross their land.

Friends of Nelson cites statements by Atlantic that it does not intend to voluntarily release the easements, and has not ruled out transferring the easements to another party, saying only “it has no plans to do so at this time.” “These easements represent a severe, continuing, and — in the wake of the project’s cancellation — a totally unwarranted burden on the properties along the Pipeline’s 604-mile route,” the comment letter to FERC says, adding, “With no ‘public use’ justification remaining, FERC must ensure that landowners’ full property rights are re-stored.”

The comment letter says Atlantic and FERC bear joint responsibility for the “zombie easements,” so-called because the easements live on even though the pipeline proposal is officially dead. FERC bears responsibility because it awarded the essential certificate of “public convenience and necessity” that opened the door to Atlantic’s use of eminent domain. Faced with powerful corporations with huge financial and legal resources, most landowners felt forced to grant easements rather than take their chances in court. Atlantic is owned by Dominion Energy, Inc. and Duke Energy Corporation, two mega-corporations.

“By remaining in place even after the cancellation of the project, these easements burden landowners’ ability to use or sell their property—and also their peace of mind, due to the threat that Atlantic could someday transfer the easements to the developer of another project” the comment to FERC states.

Friends of Nelson has researched the more than 250 easements and easement modification agreements that were filed at the Nelson County Courthouse between October 2015 and July 2020. “The owner is prohibited from doing many things within the Permanent Easement,
including, but not limited to erecting structures such as a house or barn, planting
trees and moving earth. These prohibitions continue forever, even though the pipeline will never be built,” the Friends of Nelson letter to FERC says, and it cites specific examples of Nelson County landowners’ agreements that constrain the use of their land.

The Friends of Nelson’s letter to FERC asks the agency to order Atlantic to contact all owners along the pipeline’s entire 604-mile route to inform them that Atlantic will release the right-of-way easement within 90 days of a written request from an affected landowner.

Friends of Nelson also wants FERC to order Atlantic to provide landowners with a written release of the easement, pay reasonable attorneys’ fees the landowners incur in negotiating the release of the right-of-way, and file the release in the land records of the appropriate jurisdiction.

Friends of Nelson’s request was filed on March 3. A full copy of the letter can be viewed here. 

Reaffirming Property Rights Through Natural Gas Act Modernization Act

Last September, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced S. 4673, “Reaffirming Property Rights Through The Natural Gas Act Modernization Act. 

This bill has a number of noteworthy provisions that provide needed protections for landowners  nationwide facing increased and unfair use of eminent domain for pipeline development. 

If you have not already reached out to your senators to encourage them to consider this bill, please do! The bill has been referred to the committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The best way to keep the bill moving forward is to encourage a hearing!

Please reach out to your Senators today, particularly if they are members of the Commerce Committee. 

Provisions included in the bill are outlined below; 

  • Sec 2 -Establishes that there is No Presumption of Public Interest in the export of Natural Gas.
  • Sec. 4 Ensures Notice to Landowners occurs in a clear and uniform way, and that all impacted
    persons have the information needed to intervene in the process. 
  • Sec. 5 Lays out Requirements for Exercise of Eminent Domain, stipulating that pipeline
    companies obtain all other required state and federal approvals and permits before construction
    proceeds.
  • Sec. 6 is a Requirement to Execute Project Only for Certain Purposes – that is, according to
    the plans provided to FERC with its application. This prevents a bait-and-switch. 
  • Sec. 7 ensures that companies cannot “sit” on undeveloped confiscated land for more than one year without proceeding, or if a project does not go ahead as planned, this provision also ensures that property reverts back to the previous property owner. 
  • Sec. 8 Ensures that in the event eminent domain is exercised, property owners are more fairly compensated
  • Sec. 9 eliminates FERC’s historic practice of using “tolling orders,”

Warner, Kaine Introduce Bill to Improve Pipeline Permitting Process

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update 232, August 13, 2020

U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-V) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced legislation on August 6 to strengthen the public’s ability to evaluate the impacts of natural gas pipelines being considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. S. 4502 would make it easier for the public to offer input and clarify the circumstances under which eminent domain should and should not be used.

Among other guidelines, the bill requires public comment meetings to be held in every locality through which a pipeline would pass, at every stage of the review process, in order to minimize situations where individuals are forced to commute long distances with very little time to comment. It also strengthens landowners’ rights by improving the processes in which landowners are notified of a pipeline application and bolstering their ability to intervene to ensure any concerns about their property are given fair consideration and compensation.

The bill builds upon an earlier version of legislation the Senators introduced in the last Congress. More info here.

Podcast: Fighting Eminent Domain for Pipelines

Listen to the June 28, 2020, podcast from Forward Radio’s Truth to Power program, Fighting Eminent Domain for Pipelines. Forward Radio’s description: “On this week’s Truth To Power, we gather folks into the virtual studio to continue the community conversation about LG&E’s proposed methane gas pipeline in Bullitt County [KY]. You may be familiar with this issue through the ‘Save Bernheim’ campaign, as the proposed pipeline would run through Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest. Forward Radio’s Justin Mog (Sustainability Now!) and Hart Hagan (The Climate Report / Let’s Talk) discuss the issue with one of the neighbors owning property near the pipeline, Christy Collins, as well as Elaine Tanner, Program Director for the Friends For Environmental Justice.”