Category Archives: Landowners

ACP Files Eminent Domain Suits in NC

The Triangle Business Journal reported on December 4, 2017 that the ACP has filed its first eminent domain action in North Carolina (although the NC Department of Environmental Quality has not issued 401 water certifications yet!). “On Friday, ACP filed two suits to acquire North Carolina tracts through eminent domain, an action spokesman Aaron Ruby has called a last resort.”

Friends of Nelson urges all landowners on the proposed ACP route to retain an eminent domain lawyer.  Most landowners on the ACP route in Nelson County have legal representation.  If you do not, email us at friendsofnelson@gmail.com 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!

Nelson County Property Tax Assessments

Has the value on your recent property tax assessment gone up? Is your property on the proposed ACP route? Are you in the blast zone? Will your view be ruined if the proposed right-of-way is cleared?

Of course, we are still fighting the pipeline and, in the end, we believe justice will prevail and keep this monstrosity from being built. However, until the project is cancelled once and for all, it is hard to believe that lands impacted by the pipeline should be assessed at an increased value over the what their assessments were before the ACP was announced to be coming through.

We never thought that the ACP would increase the value of our lands, and the 2016 Key Log Study confirmed our fears. Indeed, we are convinced that just the threat of the ACP has already lessened the market value of many Nelsonian’s land. Among the potential negative impacts of the ACP that could affect your property value are things like:

  1. the risk of losing your home (or worse) to an explosion should there be a leak in the pipe,
  2. a 50′ perpetual right of way limiting your use of your land
  3. the removal of all trees along the 125’ clear-cut construction right-of-way
  4. further clear-cut areas for the hundreds of “additional temporary work spaces” that are scattered along the route
  5. additional clearing for of miles of access roads which may make it easier for trespassers to come onto your private property
  6. the damage to nearby stream ecosystems and possible disruption of groundwater sources,
  7. the noise and destruction during construction and the likely erosion problems that we anticipate will last long after the construction crews leave
  8. loss of scenic views…which can even be the case for some properties that are relatively far off the route

If you want to appeal your new property assessment, YOU MUST DO THAT BY THIS FRIDAY, December 8, 2017. To file an appeal, call the number that is on the back of your assessment notice: 800-393-5128. They will take your information and either make a determination over the phone, or give you further information about the next steps.

You have the right to appeal your property tax assessment — even if you have signed an easement with ACP — we strongly encourage you to do so.

If you have questions about whether your property is on the route, on an access road or in the blast zone, please send us an e-mail ASAP, friendsofnelson@gmail.com, with your phone number and someone will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Pipelines and Farmers Battle Over Lifetime Loss

An article in the November 14, 2017 AgWeb (Farm Journal Media), Pipelines and Farmers Battle Over Lifetime Loss, says, “Pipelines and agriculture are a contentious pair, with a growing number of farmers raising concerns over soil health, drainage issues, and responses from oil and gas companies.”

Three farmers in Illinois, Georgia, and Iowa talk at length about their personal experiences with three different pipelines built across their land and the problems they caused.

“‘Pipelines promise the world and money. Sure, I love energy efficiency, but I’m a farmer and I don’t want this pipeline headache on my property. If you can keep a pipeline from coming through your property, then do it,’ Richter says. ‘If they need to get through your land, they’ll tickle your ear. But once the line is installed, they don’t come back to the table to fix problems. Even if you’ve got it in writing, you’ll still have to go to the legal system for enforcement and spend thousands of dollars,’ Dowdy adds. ‘The only leverage you’ve got is prior to the pipeline.’ ‘You’ve got to get advice from somebody with soil experience, not dirt experience. Don’t let the company put time limits on corrective action and don’t sign off on anything,’ Kelley concludes. ‘Remember, farmers look down and see soil, but the pipeline company just sees dirt.'”

MVP Sues Landowners for Easements Through Eminent Domain

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, carolyn@boldalliance.org)

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.

Old Growth Trees on the Proposed ACP Route

Video from the October 27, 2017, hike along the proposed pipeline route among old growth trees on Bill Limbert’s Bath County property. Here landowner Bill talks about the springs and streams on their property. All threatened by construction and blasting causing sedimentation, pollution, forever changing underground channels and streams. He also talks about being in karst geology and why that matters.

The ACP Is NOT a Done Deal!


We all knew that FERC would use its rubber stamp to issue a Certificate to Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, but we weren’t sure just when. Now that FERC has given its blessings to this wretched project, Friends of Nelson, and our many friends and colleagues throughout Virginia, North Caroline, and West Virginia are moving forward on strategies that could not be initiated until now!

Friends of Nelson is continuing to fight to stop the ACP in every way that we can.  

This includes:

  • Keeping our membership and allies informed and engaged through e-mail, Facebook and the Friends of Nelson Webpage.
  • Acting on strategic opportunities with our board of directors, our membership, our allies and our colleagues
  • Being represented in legal actions wherever possible and whenever necessary
  • Keeping pressure on all Federal, State and local agencies to do the right thing.
  • Continuing to build the public record through continued water monitoring and engagement with experts and resource professionals.

Remember: it only takes one agency or one judge doing the right thing to stop this runaway train.

Friends of Nelson cannot, of course, give legal advice.  However, this is what we know and this is what we recommend:

  • The FERC process was expedited by executive order and has left many regulatory requirements incomplete.  The only FERC Commissioner who had a deep understanding of the ACP, and with whom Friends of Nelson representatives met three years ago, filed a dissent and voted against the issuance of the permit on grounds that it was not deemed necessary.  The only two commissioners who voted for the certificate have served less than 2 months with FERC and were both Trump appointees.
     
  • A legal challenge to the issuance of the FERC certificate is in the works.
     
  • Construction on the ACP cannot begin until ALL necessary permits have been obtained by Dominion.  This includes approval from:
  1. ​The Forest Service on required forest plan amendments and special use permits
  2. The US Fish and Wildlife Service on its regulatory requirements for endangered species
  3. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and affected counties on regulations for construction and hazardous materials in floodplains
  4. the Virginia Outdoors Foundation on affected lands with conservation easements
  5. Section 401 (water quality, erosion and sediment control and storm water management) and 404 (water discharges) permits under the Clean Water Act by the Virginia State Water Control Board and Department of Environmental Quality (or Army Corps of Engineers) 
  • Tree clearing MAY be able to begin on properties that have recorded easement agreements with Dominion, but it also MAY NOT.  If you have a signed easement agreement and Dominion either contacts you about entering your property for tree clearing or enters your property without notice we strongly recommend that you CONTACT YOUR ATTORNEY immediately.  There are a variety of possible legal challenges that may prevent entry to your property in the short or long term, whether you have signed an easement or not.
  • If you are an impacted landowner and do not yet have an attorney, we STRONGLY advise that you contact Appalachian Mountain Advocates (434-529-6787), Lollar Law (757-644-4657), or one of the other firms (see our website) that specialize in these matters.  Representation is usually offered on a no-fee, contingency basis.  Even if you opt to negotiate an easement rather than go to court for an eminent domain hearing, it has been our observation that individuals with legal representation have obtained much better settlements than those without it.
  • If you have not signed an easement agreement, then you can continue to deny access to your property until the entire eminent domain process has run its course.  This includes Dominion bringing a lawsuit for entry under eminent domain, you obtaining legal representation, a court hearing and a judge ruling on appropriate compensation.  This process takes time to run its course. No property owner is under any obligation to allow eminent domain condemnation or access without this full process being completed.  There is one existing lawsuit already filed and the possibility of others that could stall or obstruct this process. 
     
  • If you feel that your property rights have been violated and your property is being entered illegally, immediately contact Nelson County Sheriff David Hill at: 434-263-7050.
     
  • If you filed with FERC as an intervener and if you submitted comments to FERC on their Draft Environmental Impact Statement, we invite you to join Friends of Nelson in filing a Request for Rehearing with FERC which is the next step in challenging the FERC decision.  For more information, contact Ernie Reed at 434-971-1647. And, most importantly…

KEEP IN TOUCH!
WE ARE HERE!

Ernie Reed, President, Friends of Nelson