ACP has started suing landowners. Unlike MVP, ACP is filing suits in batches, using a strategy that makes it harder for landowners to coordinate efforts. On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, landowners will meet at the Rockfish Presbyterian Church on HWY 151 at 7pm. Please enter the door around the back of the church. We will have three guests who can help inform landowners. Chris Johns and Isak Howell are lawyers who focus on representing landowners across the country in pipeline takings; they currently represent several landowners on the ACP and will give an overview of where things stand with the project and legal challenges to it. Josh Korman is a licensed appraiser with vast experience in valuing the impact that pipelines have on land values. Event organizers Richard and Jill Averitt welcome anyone interested in the ACP project to attend this informational meeting on Tuesday, and Friends of Nelson urges all landowners whose property is crossed by either the pipeline and/or its access roads to attend.
On February 19, 2018, the Washington Post reported that a federal judge refused to postpone the February 26, 2018, hearing in the ACP’s lawsuit seeking possession of properties in Augusta, Bath, Buckingham and Cumberland counties. Although the hearing was not postponed, the judge “ordered developers to turn over more information and gave property owners more time to respond.”
ALL of the cases from the Western District of Virginia will be heard by Judge Moon on February 26, 2018, at 9:30am, US District Court in Lynchburg, 1101 Court Street, room 370. This hearing includes all the condemnation lawsuits from Augusta, Bath, Buckingham, Cumberland, Highland, and Nelson. (The cases from the Eastern District of Virginia, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Nottoway , and Southampton, will be heard elsewhere.)
If you are able to attend the hearing in Lynchburg, the Fentons (Nelson property owners being sued) and other property owners will appreciate your support. Show up and pack the courtroom. Please – no signs, no “No Pipeline” t-shirts, no cell phones in the courtroom.
There will be an alternative space across the street from the courthouse (at First Unitarian Church of Lynchburg, 313 Ninth St) open for people to gather and unify our fight across counties. Bold Appalachia and the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition will have snacks and refreshments available starting at 9AM and continuing throughout the day for anyone resisting the pipeline.
In Charlottesville, federal court officials have announced that they are making a video feed available at the Charlottesville federal courthouse for public viewing of the Lynchburg hearing on pipeline condemnation cases. Interested members of the public may attend.
Of the 38 Western District of Virginia condemnation lawsuits that have been filed by ACP between January 1 and February 19, 2018, 31 were filed in January and 7 in February (through February 19):
- Augusta: 17
- Bath: 1
- Buckingham: 10
- Cumberland: 3
- Highland: 5
- Nelson: 2
Of these cases, five have since been dismissed, presumably because the parties settled on easement terms. (3 in Augusta, 2 in Highland). At this time it also appears that the case against Wintergreen is NOT on the 2/26 docket.
Additionally, there have been:
- 9 cases filed in the Eastern District of Virginia (one of which has since been dismissed).
- 16 cases filed in the East District of N. Carolina
- 3 cases in West Virginia (one of which has since been dismissed.)
Since January first of this year, ACP has filed a total of 66 condemnation lawsuits in Federal Court.
On February 9, 2018, the ACP filed suit against Wintergreen Property Owners Association (WPOA) to seize property by eminent domain. Suit was filed in federal court to take “immediate possession” of 7.5 acres to construct its 42-inch natural gas pipeline.
Jay Roberts, Executive Director of WPOA released the following statement:
“Dominion Energy notified Wintergreen Property Owners’ Association (WPOA) that, based on the legal authority given to it by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), it was filing suit in Federal court on Friday, February 9 for condemnation of WPOA property. WPOA has repeatedly and publicly stated our opposition to the location of the pipeline. However, based on the law of eminent domain and the history of these cases in Federal Court, we expect that a court of law will grant the access necessary for the project to proceed.
“We respect the legal process and are focused on addressing the concerns of our owners through Dominion’s agreement to participate in a formal mediated process that will include the financial and non-financial implications placed on the community by the presence of the pipeline. WPOA is committed to the best possible outcome for our community; one that provides fair treatment and security for our owners, employees and guests.”
The ACP has filed the first eminent domain lawsuit in Nelson County. The suit against Fenton Inn, located near the entrance to Wintergreen below Reeds Gap and immediately adjacent to Wintergreen Property Owners Association land, was filed on January 31, 2018, and asks to “take” land “immediately” and to “transport pipe, vehicles, machinery, persons, equipment, or other materials to, from and through the property.”
After two very long days of hearings in U.S. District Court in Roanoke (including an unusual Saturday session ending at 7:45 pm), Judge Elizabeth Dillon said she will decide later on Mountain Valley Pipeline’s federal lawsuit against hundreds of landowners in Virginia who have refused to discuss easement agreements that would allow the pipeline to cross their land. After receiving approval in October from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the MVP invoked its power of eminent domain to seek easements on nearly 300 pieces of private property that lie in the pipeline’s path — over the objections of affected landowners in the Roanoke and New River Valleys.
Delegate Chris Hurst, Delegate Sam Rasoul, and Senator John Edwards held a joint press conference on January 11, 2018, to discuss legislation they’ve introduced to the 2018 Virginia General Assembly aimed at protecting water quality and landowner rights from the construction of fracked-gas pipelines, such as the proposed Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines. The bills would require the Department of Environmental Quality to perform robust water permitting and impact review, and restrict the ability of pipeline companies to access private property,
The bills are (click on the links to see the full bill):
- HB 1187 (Curtails the ability of a natural gas company to enter upon real property for the purpose of conducting surveys and other tests for its proposed line or the location of facilities) and HB 1188 (Requires the operator of any natural gas pipeline of a certain size, prior to operation, to commission an independent test of the quality of ground water for each property in the right-of-way and to file a gas discharge contingency plan that is approved by the State Water Control Board (the Board), introduced by Delegate Chris Hurst)
- HB 1141 (Directs the State Water Control Board (the Board), regarding interstate natural gas pipeline projects, to (i) require both a Virginia Water Protection Permit and an Individual Water Quality Certification under § 401 of the federal Clean Water Act; (ii) review water body crossings, construction through karst terrain, and plans for control of erosion, sediment, and stormwater; (iii) prohibit any land-disturbing activity, including tree felling, prior to the issuance of a Water Quality Certification; and (iv) require horizontal directional drilling for certain crossings of large water bodies) and HB 1294 (Requires any company that plans to construct an interstate natural gas pipeline in Virginia to post a performance bond with the State Water Control Board (the Board) in an amount sufficient to ensure that the Board could address and remediate any adverse water quality impact that arises out of the construction) introduced by Delegate Sam Rasoul
- SB 324 (Curtails the ability of a natural gas company to enter upon real property for the purpose of conducting surveys and other tests for its proposed line or the location of facilities – a companion to HB 1187 above) introduced by Senator John Edwards.