Category Archives: Eminent Domain

New Videos from BXE

In preparation for their annual three day sharing/training, art-build and action in Washington DC, Beyond Extreme Energy has produced a series of educational videos on FERC, fracking, and extreme energy, created by Maren Poitras and Andrew Geller. (For information about the BXE weekend event, Crack FERC Open, June 23-25, 2018, go to the BXE Web page.)

Video 1: Are Oil and Gas Pipelines for the Public Good? Through the voices of those directly harmed, this video introduces eminent domain abuses and the growing movement of people from many regions fighting back.  View on YouTube.  View on Facebook.

Video 2: Is Natural Gas a Clean Alternative? The notion that fracked gas is a clean transition fuel is widespread. This video debunks the lie.  View on YouTube.  View on Facebook.

Video 3: Greed Pays: Pipelines and Profits, about how greed and profit are baked into the system.  View on YouTube.  View on Facebook.

Video 4: What is FERC? The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the most dangerous federal agency many Americans have never heard of. We care about FERC because it is in charge of approving–or not–interstate gas pipelines and infrastructure projects. FERC has turned down only 2 gas pipeline projects out of over 500 submitted over the past 30 years. In a world where the impacts of fossil-fuel induced climate change are so clear, and so devastating, it’s absolutely necessary that FERC be replaced with an agency dedicated to an active and just transition off fossil fuels.  View on YouTube.  View on Facebook.

Little Pink House: Special Showing

WHERE: The Regal Stonefield, 1954 Swanson Dr, Charlottesville
WHEN: Thursday, June 28 at 7:30 p.m.
TICKETS: Tickets are $12 general admission, and proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Friends of Nelson. You must buy your tickets online; no tickets will be sold at the door. Purchase tickets here: https://www.tugg.com/events/little-pink-house-dauw

Based on a true story, a small-town paramedic named Susette Kelo leaves a bad marriage, and starts over in a new town. She buys a rundown cottage with a gorgeous water view. She fixes it up and paints it pink. Then she discovers powerful politicians want to bulldoze her blue-collar neighborhood for the benefit of a multi-billion dollar corporation. With the help of a young lawyer named Scott Bullock, Susette emerges as the reluctant leader of her neighbors in an epic battle that goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, inspires a nation, and helps millions of Americans protect their homes.

In 2005, the nation was shocked by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Kelo vs. New London. In the judgment, the court said that a local government could forcibly seize people’s homes, through eminent domain, in order to transfer the property to a major corporation for development. The response was immediate. Across the country, states passed legislation and amended constitutions to curtail the power of eminent domain.  In 2012, the people of Virginia spoke out overwhelmingly when more than 2.6 million citizens (74.45% of votes cast) approved amending the state constitution to prohibit eminent domain from being invoked if the “primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue or economic development.”

Plaintiff Susette Kelo’s fight has been dramatized in this new film, Little Pink House, starring the brilliant, Oscar-nominated actress Catherine Keener as Kelo.

The film is being distributed in an unorthodox manner. Local people sign up to bring it to their town and, if enough tickets are sold, a screening proceeds at a selected local theater. We are pleased to announce that Doug Hornig has secured a showing of the film in Charlottesville:

WHERE: The Regal Stonefield, 1954 Swanson Dr, Charlottesville
WHEN: Thursday, June 28 at 7:30 p.m.
TICKETS: Tickets are $12 general admission, and proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Friends of Nelson. You must buy your tickets online; no tickets will be sold at the door. Purchase tickets here: https://www.tugg.com/events/little-pink-house-dauw

Eminent domain is a hot button topic here in central Virginia, as Dominion intends to use it to seize private property for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Many of us have been fighting them for several years now, and continue to do so.

We hope to use this event to help educate the public about the importance of fighting eminent domain abuse. Following the film, there will be a panel discussion and Q&A featuring: John Kramer – Institute for Justice, Chuck Lollar – Attorney specializing in eminent domain cases, Richard Averitt – Property owner impacted by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Joyce Burton – Board member, Friends of Nelson, a nonprofit dedicated to stopping this unnecessary pipeline.

Join us – and bring family, friends, and neighbors! We’ll see you there!

The Little Pink House

George Will’s April 18, 2018, column is on the new movie, “The Little Pink House,” about the Kelo case, in which eminent domain was granted for commercial developers. Will characterizes it as “a bite-your-nails true-story thriller featuring heroes, villains and a history-making struggle over . . . the Constitution’s takings clause.” Those of us dealing with greedy pipeline developers know all about being on the receiving end of eminent domain lawsuits filed by for-profit companies arguing that their pipelines carrying fossil fuel are for the public good.

Will explains the background of the 1998 New London CT case, where a private development company wanted to entice big pharmaceutical company Pfizer to locate on land in a blue-collar residential neighborhood, and the city of New London allowed the development company “to wield the awesome, potentially life-shattering power of eminent domain if, as happened, it failed to persuade all the homeowners to sell for an upscale private development to ‘complement’ Pfizer’s facility. Some, led by Susette Kelo…, refused.”

Kelo vs City of New London, lost in the Connecticut Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision, then went on to the US Supreme Court, which, in a 5-4 decision, accepted the state court’s arguments, virtually erasing the Constitution’s circumscription of government’s eminent-domain power.

Will summarizes the Court’s action: “To seize Kelo’s pink house, New London did not assert blight. Instead, it argued that ‘public use’ is synonymous with ‘public benefit,’ and that the public would benefit more from Pfizer paying more taxes than would Kelo and her neighbors. During oral arguments, Justice Antonin Scalia distilled New London’s argument: ‘You can take from A to give to B if B pays more taxes.’ In a dissent joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Clarence Thomas and Scalia, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor warned that the decision’s consequences ‘will not be random’: Factions whose affluence makes them desirable taxpayers and whose political influence makes them politically potent will join governments in seizing the property of low-income citizens who are not as lucrative for local governments.”

The decision gave government officials the power to bulldoze a neighborhood for the benefit of a multibillion-dollar corporation.  Which they did.  BUT THEN – the project that prompted the lawsuit, for which people lost their homes, and for which the residential area was bulldozed, never happened.

Sound like a familiar strategy? You bet it does!

Read George Will’s full column here.

Watch the movie trailer here.

NC Judge Rules in Favor of Two Landowners


On Wednesday March 14, 2018, Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s motion asking a federal judge in US District Court in Elizabeth City NC to force Marvin Winstead Jr., Ronald Locke, and 11 other hold-outs to allow contractors to immediately begin tree-cutting on their land. Standard practice for eminent domain is to pay up front, but since they had been unable to reach any agreement with landowners, ACP asked to use “quick-take,” agreeing to a bond that supposedly guarantees landowners will be paid after a jury determines an appropriate amount.

ACP argued that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if they couldn’t proceed. According to NC Policy Watch, “the landowners will suffer no such harm from allowing construction to begin now, ACP lawyers claim. ‘What is the harm in giving us access now or later?’ Richard D. Holzheimer, Jr., an attorney with McGuireWoods, the firm representing the ACP, asked the court. He acknowledged the project would inflict ‘irreparable harm’ but ‘not from early access.'” [Note the admission by the ACP lawyer that the pipeline would cause “irreparable harm” to landowners.]

On Friday March 16, 2018, US District Court Judge Terrance Boyle ruled that Winstead and Locke do not have to allow Atlantic Coast Pipeline contractors on their property to begin tree-cutting – at least for now – because neither had been given a reasonable opportunity to negotiate with ACP, LLC. Although Winstead received an offer from the ACP in January 2016, a surveyor later told him his property was not on the route. Locke tried to communicate with ACP LLC, but they never responded.

However, Boyle ruled in favor of the ACP in the cases of the other 11 landowners, saying the ACP may invoke eminent domain on their properties. As a security, the ACP must deposit with a federal district court clerk an amount three times the appraised value of each parcel it plans to condemn, and must also obtain a bond twice the appraised value of the parcels.

Read a fuller report on the March 14, 2018, hearing here, and a fuller report on the judge’s March 16 decision here.

About Pipelines: The Short Form


A summary sheet prepared by Water Is Life. Protect It.

The Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast fracked gas pipelines:

-are not needed by, nor will they bring energy to, the communities whose water and safety they threaten.

-will increase the cost of natural gas to Virginia ratepayers, first because of unneeded costly new infrastructure and later because the march to the sea for export will raise domestic natural gas prices 2 to 3 times.

-represent an immoral and illegal use of eminent domain to seize private land for corporate gain and not common good.

-are a clear and documented threat to the drinking water of over 12 million people either as a result of increased sedimentation from construction or from operational leaks of gas and fracking chemicals.

will not create local permanent jobs or even temporary local construction jobs.

-will more than double the greenhouse gas emissions for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

-against all scientific advice and warning, will be built over karst terrain, a geologic structure that produces most of our region’s clear pure water, but that is subject to sudden and unpredictable sinkholes and unexpected water connections and damages.

-pose a significant and documented risk of explosion and fire in their blast zones of 2,200 feet

-have and will continue to lower the value of any land they are on.

-represent stark environmental racism (especially the placement of the proposed Buckingham Compressor Station and routing through Native American lands) and environmental classism (targeting communities struggling with poverty and job loss).

-will reject the less costly and efficient upgrade of existing lines now running at less than real capacity in order to bring their developers a guaranteed profit of 15% on new energy infrastructure (MVP & ACP together well over 10 billion and rising).

-have revealed via their rushed and incomplete permitting and review processes, a level of corruption in Virginia government and regulatory agencies that is shocking and dangerous.